Pacific proposes microbeads ban

19 September 2017, Apia, Samoa – France proposed a ban on plastic microbeads at the 28th annual meeting of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) Members today in Samoa.

"There is an increasing flow of plastic and the presence of plastic microbeads present in our oceans, which have negative impacts on marine species, coral reefs and associated ecosystems," said Mr.Jean-Luc Fauré-Tournaire, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to SPREP and Pacific Community (SPC).

These tiny plastics are causing big problems for our oceans and marine life. Microbeads are commonly used and shipped as a starting material used to remelt and form larger plastic objects, but the microbeads are easily lost and are a common pollutant. Plastic microbeads are also found in many household and cosmetic products, such as toothpaste and body scrubs, which are simply washed down the drain.

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Mr.Jean-Luc Fauré-Tournaire, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to SPREP and
Pacific Community (SPC). Photo: SPREP

Microbeads easily enter into our water systems and end up in the oceans, where they can be mistaken for food by fish and other animals. The plastics take up valuable space in digestive systems, potentially affecting energy budgets needed to sustain healthy marine animals. Another concern is that the small particles may concentrate toxins. These toxins can build up in fish species that eventually end up on our dinner plates.

The Member countries noted the importance of the issue raised and the need to take action at the national, regional and global level. Many of the Member countries were also implementing stronger measures in their legislative frameworks by banning the use of single-use plastic bags, plastic and Styrofoam packaging as stated in the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum Communique.

"We know that our fish are eating lots of plastic. The average person eats 80 kilograms of fish per year in the Pacific, 4 times more than the global average, and the proportion of fish known to have eaten plastic in the Pacific is 30% higher than the global average. This would mean that a Pacific islander has a much higher likelihood of consuming plastic" said Mr Anthony Talouli, SPREP Pollution Adviser.

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SPREP's Pollution Adviser, Mr Anthony Talouli. Photo: SPREP

"Microplastics can move through body tissues of large fish after they are swallowed, and microplasticsare also eaten by shellfish like clams. Some plastics may be inert and harmless, but some studies show higher levels of pollutants associated with the microplastics."

"Each of us can choose to avoid products that contain microbeads, often listed as polyethylene or polypropylene," said Mrs. FalaiTaofifenua, Deputy Director for the Environment, Wallis et Futuna

"It's true we need global action to completely solve the problem, but we can start at home and Wallis et Futuna have banned plastic bags'.."

The proposed ban would make that decision easier for all of us, because the offending products would not be imported into the region.

Recently, the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum recognised the impacts of marine plastic litter and microplastics in the Communique. Leaders committed to develop policies to ban the use of single-use plastic bags, and many countries seek to take this further to include other plastic and Styrofoam packaging.

Banning the use of plastic microbeads or single-use plastic bags is also a focus of the global Clean Seas campaign, launched by UN Environment in February this year to eliminate microplastics in cosmetics and drastically reduce single-use plastic by the year 2022.

"A regional ban across the Pacific can have tremendous influence on stopping plastic pollution at the source," said Ms. Isabelle Louis, Deputy Director General of UN Environment Asia-Pacific. "We will support leadership in the Pacific to address marine debris, as part of our voluntary commitments made at the UN Ocean Conference with SPREP and other partners.

Kiribati is the most recent country to commit to the Clean Seas Campaign. The Minister for Environment, Mr. Alexander Teabo said, "Pacific environments require global commitments to sustainable consumption and production. Unsustainable consumption and production practices affect our Pacific environments and species, which we depend on for our living."

For more information, contact Mr. Anthony Talouli at anthonyt@sprep.org
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