A comprehensive ban that removes most microbeads from store shelves took effect in Canada on July 1, but there are some exceptions, meaning that certain products will still be available for another year as the federal government vies to protect Canadian waters from microplastics.
The recent ban, which was nearly two years in the making, prohibits the manufacture, import and sale of most toiletry products that contain microbeads; however, the legislation excludes microbeads in natural health products and non-prescription drugs, which will be banned as of July 1, 2019.
The ban comes after the federal government amended the Environmental Protection Act, 1999 to include microbeads in the list of “toxic substances.”
— Catherine McKenna ???????? (@cathmckenna) July 1, 2018
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In a Canada Day post on Twitter, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna wrote: “Our gift on #CanadaDay: we have officially taken the final step and banned the bead in Canada! Microbeads will no longer be for sale in toiletries as of today.”
Microbeads had been popular in toiletries for their exfoliating properties. Because they range in size from 10 micrometres to less than one millimetre, they can be a challenge for water treatment plant filtration, compromising the habitat and food sources of not only Canadian species, but also water systems that supply drinking water. According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, a 2016 study found microplastics in every sample that was taken near shore areas along both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
In terms of microplastics used in laundry detergents, a 2018 study by ocean-protection group Ocean Wise found that Vancouver-area treatment plants were able to remove about 1.8 trillion plastic particles in wastewater each year, but 30 billion particles were still released into the ocean.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a joint communiqué at the end of the recent G7 summit that he and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. agreed to a plastics charter that would combat pollution created by single-use plastics items like bottles, cups and bags.
“This is an important step towards achieving a life-cycle economy in which all plastics would be recycled and repurposed,” Trudeau told the summit.