Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

Prohibition of Micro-Plastics Bill 2016: Discussion (Resumed)

9:30 am

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I am again conscious of time. My Bill is very simple and it deals with a bespoke element of the entirety of the challenge - microbeads. I am very happy to change the title of my Bill to call it the prohibition of microbeads Bill 2016 or such. This is where the scientific research has been invaluable to us. It really explains to us just how large the scope is and the methodology that one needs to underpin all of the research, and that work is ongoing. The wording of my Bill is "any cosmetic containing micro-plastics is guilty of an offence". I allow for summary offences. It calls for penalties if one manufactures, sells or imports. I also set out what would be actually banned. These are all what I would call products of conspicuous consumption. They are not necessities. They include a "personal care product including but not limited to a facial scrub, soap, lotion, shower gel, sunscreen, make-up, deodorant or toothpaste". We are not banning those products but we are banning products of that nature that contain microbeads. We have a scientific definition of microbeads. My Bill is very simple.

Notwithstanding the Government's intention, I cannot see what it is that the committee will produce that is more robust or comprehensive than this if we are dealing specifically and only with the issue of microbeads. That is the point I really want to make. I welcome this interaction and the bona fides of the Department officials. I recognise the challenge. Maybe the wording of my Bill needs work and I acknowledge that. One could amend my Bill to say that microbeads or microplastics means plastic particles of less than 5 mm in diameter, for instance.

In one fell swoop, the legislation would remove an array of products for which there is incontrovertible proof that they find their way into water courses. That could be done in a very short time. That was also the intention of Senator Grace O'Sullivan's Bill before it was opposed. I do not see why that could not be done at an early juncture while working on the wider issues in relation to marine litter in parallel. The witnesses came here with the issue of marine litter very firmly in their sights.

Finally, I return to Senator Grace O'Sullivan's point that the funding for research on this is something that needs to be looked at. I will go to Science Foundation Ireland and will speak to the Minister and the Marine Institute to see if there is a mechanism. It may be that there is a mechanism for researching this area in terms of societal challenges through Horizon 2020. I was at the negotiating table for Horizon 2020 and recall that this was looked at as one of the societal challenges and that there should be funds available for this. It would not take a lot of money to buttress the research that the witnesses are doing which is vital if we are looking at the entirety of the coastline of Ireland.


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