LABOUR BILL TO TACKLE MICRO-PLASTIC POLLUTION
Labour spokesperson on Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Seán Sherlock, will bring a Bill before the Dáil today, aimed at banning the use of microbeads and other micro-plastics in cosmetic and personal products.
The Prohibition of Micro-Plastics Bill 2016 would make it an offence to manufacture, sell or advertise any products that use microbeads.
Microbeads are tiny particles of plastic, commonly added to products such as facial or body scrubs, soaps, lotions and toothpastes, to make them more abrasive or for decoration. They often end up in our rivers and the sea, leading to concerns over their harmful impact on marine life and animals.
Deputy Sherlock said:
“This is an area of legislation which clearly has cross-party support. With the recent Green Party Bill failing in the Seanad because of Government and Fianna Fáil opposition, the Labour Party Bill addresses the issues that the Government raised.
“The EU Transparency Directive sets up a procedure obliging the Member States to notify the Commission of all draft regulations on products before they are adopted in national law. The notification triggers a standstill period of three-months.
“The Commission and the other Member States can use this time to examine the notified draft regulation to determine whether it complies with the EU Treaty and the principles of the free movement of goods and services. If there is no reaction, the draft can be adopted after the three-month standstill period has expired.
“This is exactly the procedure that the then Minister for Health, Micheál Martin, had to follow when he introduced the ban on smoking in the workplace. The EU Commission can block the proposal if the draft legislation concerns a matter where the EU itself proposes to act. But this is clearly not the case on microplastics.
“We therefore firmly believe that the option of unilateral action by Ireland on this issue is a valid one under the EU Treaty. If we are to wait for the minority Government or Fianna Fáil to act on these, we might as well pack up the tent and go home.
“We are elected to legislate. New politics means accepting legislation from all sides of the House. The Labour Party is happy for any other party to co-sign this legislation and ensure that it goes through the House efficiently.”
NOTES TO EDITOR:
Articles 34 and 35 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union set out the principle that, as the Single Market is an area without internal borders, restrictions on the movement of goods are not allowed and the free movement of goods should be guaranteed.
Undoubtedly an Irish ban on the sale of products containing microbeads would have the effect of restricting certain imports but Article 36 of the Treaty goes on to say that Articles 34 and 35 do not preclude prohibitions or restrictions on imports that are justified on grounds of the protection of health and life of humans, animals or plants.
In other words, the EU Treaty directly acknowledges that national measures can be taken to protect the environment.
The alternative action is to ban them. The US and Canada have passed legislation. The United Kingdom will progress further next year.
In December 2014 the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium and Sweden issued a joint statement to EU environment ministers calling for an EU ban on micro-plastics in cosmetics and detergents.