The Federal Government is currently developing regulations to eliminate the use of microbeads in personal care products. In February, the government made its proposed regulations available to the public for comment. The specifics of the regulations are important: they will determine whether the regulations achieve their goal.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Ottawa Riverkeeper, Fraser Riverkeeper and North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper have jointly submitted comments on the proposed regulations. The comments highlight three issues:
- The proposed regulations define microbeads too narrowly. In the proposed regulations microbeads are defined as plastics that are between 0.5µm and 2mm in size. This definition creates a loophole that would allow microbeads that are over 2mm or under 0.5µm to be used in personal care products. US legislation has defined microbeads as plastics that are equal to or less than 5mm in size. This is a better approach and Canada should do the same.
- The US federal government has already enacted legislation that sets timelines for the elimination of microbeads in personal care products. The timelines in Canada’s proposed regulations would result in products being banned in Canada six months after they are banned in the US. This is problematic because it could make Canada a potential dumping ground for products that can no longer be sold in the United States.
- The proposed regulations do not have an exception for biodegradable plastics. This is great news. Some companies have expressed interest in biodegradable microbeads. Purportedly biodegradable microbeads may not break down in the aquatic environment and create many of the same harms as regular microbeads. For this reason it is important that no exemption for biodegradable microbeads is added to the regulations.
You can read the full comment below.