In a move towards an outright ban, the Canadian federal government has officially labelled microbeads a toxic substance under the Environmental Protection Act. Doing so will give them the ability to ban the beads, often used in personal care products. According to an online notice by the Canada Gazette, the government is now targeting microbeads 5 millimetres in size, as opposed to the original 2 millimetres in size.
Caitlin Workman, a spokesperson for Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna, told CTV that the government wants to ban microbeads and expects to have draft regulations ready by autumn. The government’s goal is to phase out their use in scrubs, bath products, facial cleanser, and toothpaste “to protect the long-term health of our environment and to keep Canada’s lakes and rivers clean,” Workman told CTV.
Though the government’s timeline for the banning of microbeads and import on microbead products is loosely defined at this point, companies have already taken action to stop microbead products from hitting the shelves. The notice in the Gazette says that of 14 companies that make up the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, 5 have already stopped using microbeads in their products. The remaining 9 will follow suit by 2018 or 2019. The government’s original goal was to ban manufacture and import of microbead products by the end of 2017 and ban the sale of these products by the end of 2018.
Following similar moves in the U.S. and Europe, Parliament voted unanimously to remove microbeads from the market and ban their use. The decision was announced by the former Conservative government last August.
CTV notes that the wording in the online notice specifically targets microbeads found in personal care products. Federal officials took care to note that they rejected more restrictive wording pushed by industry stakeholders who felt that the proposed ban would over-regulate the plastics supply chain in Canada and foster “unintended stigmatization” of plastic products. The online noticed backed the rationale of their decision with United Nations research done on the harmful effects of microplastics.