Campaign to rid Australian waterways of microbeads wins backing of Clarins, Clearasil and Ella Baché

Three more cosmetic companies have pledged to rid their body and facial scrub products of plastic microbeads, which are polluting Sydney Harbour and other waterways. The significant boost to the campaign, first reported in The Sun-Herald last November, comes after it received backing from the federal Environment Minister and other states. NSW and South Australia agreed to lead work on a “jurisdictional phase down of microbeads”, according to a communique posted on the Department of Environment website. The campaign was started by environmental campaigner Jon Dee, who runs the advocacy group DoSomething, and NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes, who have called for a voluntary ban by the end of 2016. Middle Harbour scientists found 60-100 particles of plastic micro debris in 100 millilitres of sediment – among the highest levels recorded in the world. They are ingested by worms, which can then be consumed by fish. Seven large companies have now committed to ridding their scrubs of microbeads including Unilever, L’Oreal and The Body Shop. The latest are Clarins, Clearasil and Ella Baché, which have written to Mr Dee pledging their support. Clearasil said it was “committed to phasing polyethylene microbeads out of our products by 2016. We are in the process of exploring suitable alternatives that will deliver the same performance.” The Clarins Group said it had stopped manufacturing products containing plastic microbeads, a decision that took effect at the start of the year. “We have made it a priority to substitute microbeads with equally effective, perfectly tolerated and more environmentally-friendly materials of natural origin,” the company said. Ella Baché said it supported the move to phase out plastic microbeads and was working with its French company to achieve that aim by the end of 2016. Mr Dee said: “This means we’re at a point where a national phaseout of microbeads is now finally possible. The big personal care companies seem ready to do the right thing, but we now need to stop the importation of cheap no-name products that contain plastic microbeads. It’s our opinion that legislation will be needed to ban those products from entering the country.” Australian model Miranda Kerr, whose cosmetic company makes scrubs without microbeads, previously told The Sun-Herald that consumers making small changes could have a positive impact on the planet. “I feel good knowing my customers and I aren’t harming the environment by flushing plastic microbeads down the drain and ultimately into our waterways and ocean,” Ms Kerr said. Mr Stokes said he was delighted that other states and companies had now expressed a desire to collaborate with NSW on the elimination on mircobead plastics. “It was important to discuss the increasing body of scientific evidence of the detrimental impact that micro-plastics are having in the marine environment,” he said. “The NSW government announced our commitment to reducing these impacts last year, but for action to be truly effective it needs to occur at a national level.” Professor Emma Johnston from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science is leading research into whether stormwater drains were the route by which microbeads were entering the harbour. “This is a very positive development,” she said. “Anything that reduces the chance of microbeads entering the system reduces the chance of them impacting the ecosystems that we value so highly.”

Sydney Morning Herald, 1 March 2015 ; ;