Guidance and information for producers and suppliers of products containing microbeads (small plastic particles 5 millimeters or smaller) to comply with the Microbeads Prohibition Act 2019.
Microbeads are defined in Irish law as plastic particles 5 millimeters or smaller, that are not water soluble and that are intentionally added to personal care products. Microbeads are usually of spherical shape.
Microbeads have a damaging effect on the environment in land, rivers, oceans, and marine ecosystems:
Plastic microbeads make up a small fraction of the overall microplastic problem (some models suggest maybe 3% of microplastic inputs into the marine environment). However, they are a readymade microplastic that is virtually impossible to remove from the environment once they are in it.
Plastic microbeads are added to products for reasons of visual appearance, exfoliating, cleaning or abrasive scouring purposes, or as bulking agents, to products including cosmetics, personal care treatment products, detergents, and abrasive cleaning agents. Plastic microbeads are also used in industrial settings (e.g. oil and gas exploration, automotive moulding, textile printing and plastic blasting at shipyards), for anti-slip and anti-blocking applications, as well as in medical applications.
Investment in improving wastewater treatment systems is ongoing and the capability to capture microplastics increases. However, even where they are effectively captured by wastewater treatment, there are concerns about microplastic concentrations in retained sludge and what happens to them on the disposal of that sludge. Most of this sludge is spread on agricultural land as fertiliser. Sludge contaminated with microplastics would lead to contamination of agricultural land it is spread on and may lead to contamination of groundwater.
The most effective solution to preventing microplastic pollution is to tackle it at source. This means stemming the flow of primary microplastics, and plastics in general, entering the marine environment in the first place.
The Microbeads (Prohibition) Act, 2019 regulates the placing on the market of products containing microbeads in Ireland. The Act sets out the rules and the legal obligations for anyone who makes, imports, or sells products containing microbeads in Ireland.
‘Placing on the market’ is defined as to:
A “microbead user” is any person or organisation that places products with microbeads on the market in Ireland on a professional basis. This includes manufacturers of microbeads or anyone who imports products with microbeads by whatever means. If you are a producer of a product that contains microbeads you must follow the EPA guidance for users and producers of products that contain microbeads. Producers and suppliers of products containing microbeads have certain duties which include the duty of care when handling environmentally damaging items, the correct disposal and waste management of products that contain microbeads, identifying applicable standards for such products.
The prohibition on microbeads does not apply to:
Certain types of organisations like universities or scientific laboratories can apply for approval for certain activities with the EPA may be approved by the EPA if the Agency is satisfied that the organisation will carry out activities such as:
If you wish to apply to be an approved body, please email the Agency at firstname.lastname@example.org, referencing the above criteria and attaching documentary evidence.
The Microbeads Prohibition Act 2019 nominates the EPA as the Competent Authority responsible for enforcement of the Act.
Enforcement of the Act will be carried out through engagement with stakeholders, market surveillance, site visits, testing and requests for technical information.
In Ireland, the EPA is responsible for making sure that European law is implemented and properly enforced. Certain responsibilities have also been given to the following organisations to assist the EPA:
The Agency may take summary proceedings for any offence under the Act and provides that the costs and expenses of the Agency can be recovered where a prosecution is successful.
A person guilty of an offence under the Microbeads Prohibition Act 2019 will be liable to:
If you have a query about microbeads or about any of this information, please contact us.
If you find a product that you believe or suspect to contain microbeads, please let us know and we will investigate the matter. Send your query or complaint about microbeads in a product to email@example.com
Information relating to the Microbeads Prohibition Act 2019 Microbeads (Prohibition) Act 2019 – No. 52 of 2019 – Houses of the Oireachtas
Learn more about microbeads and compliance see Q&A Restriction to intentionally added microplastics (europa.eu).
EU Commission Regulation for REACH as regards to synthetic polymer microparticles
Find out more about microbeads and microplastics across the EU on the website of the European Commission
Environmental Protection Agency