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Minister Murphy announces commencement date for Microbeads (Prohibition) Act 2019

Published on Thursday, 20 Feb 2020
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The Microbeads (Prohibition) Act 2019 (Commencement) Order 2020 (S.I. 36 of 2020), which sets today, 20 February 2020, as date the Act comes into effect, was signed into law on 6 February by the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy T.D.   The purpose of the Act is to reduce inputs of microplastic pollution into marine and fresh waters. 

The Act prohibits the manufacture or placing on the market of cosmetics and personal care products that may be washed or rinsed off with water, as well as household and industrial cleaning products, and that contain plastic microbeads.  Placing on the market is defined as to:

  • sell;
  • offer or expose for sale;
  • advertise or invite an offer to purchase;
  • distribute free of charge,
  • import or export;
  • or supply for any of those purposes (whether or not for profit).

The Act also makes it an offence to dispose of any substance containing microbeads by pouring it down the drain or into marine or freshwater environments.

The Act makes the Environmental Protection Agency the responsible authority for its implementation and enforcement, with assistance from the Gardaí or Customs and Excise Officers of the Revenue Commissioners as required.

The Act can be viewed at



The Microbeads (Prohibition) Bill 2019, was introduced to the Dáil on 20 June 2019.  It was passed by the both Houses of the Oireachtas on 17 December and signed by the President on 26 December 2019.  It will come into force on 20 February 2020.

The Microbeads (Prohibition) Act 2019 is an important measure to reduce the level of microplastic pollution entering our seas, rivers and lakes.  While a small number of EU States have introduced similar measures in relation to cosmetics and personal care products, Ireland has gone further and extended these prohibitions to household and Industrial cleaning products. 

The Act makes it an offence to manufacture, or placing on the market water-soluble cosmetic products and household and industrial cleaning products, containing plastic microbeads.

In the Act, placing on the market is defined as to sell; offer or expose for sale; invite an offer to purchase; distribute free of charge, import; export; or supply for any of those purposes (whether or not for profit).

It also makes it an offence to dispose of any substances containing plastic microbeads down the drain or directly into any freshwater or marine environments.  

The EPA is assigned as the responsible for implementation with support from Customs Officials and the Gardaí.  

A person summarily convicted could receive a Class A fine and/or a prison sentence of up to six months.  Conviction on indictment may mean a fine of up to €3,000,000 and/ or a prison sentence of up to five years.

Ireland will continue to work with the Commission and other EU Member States to develop further robust regulatory measures to address microplastic pollution.


Required Derogation from EU Single Market Rules for Bill

As the Act limits the type of product, which can be sold on the Irish Market, Ireland submitted a derogation under EU Single Market rules. Derogations can be sought on environmental and health grounds. A formal notification was sent to the EU in July 2019.  After the required three-month standstill period, on 22 October the Commission replied raising no objection to the prohibitions within the Bill.

About Microplastics and Microbeads

Microplastics are small non-biodegradable solid plastic particles (greater than 1 nanometre and less than 5 millimetres wide) or fibres (greater than 1 nanometre and less than 20mm long). As well as created by the breakdown of larger plastic items, microplastics are also entering the marine environment directly in a wide variety of forms, such as fibres, lost raw material pellets, through tyre wear or as plastic microbeads used in a variety of substances for example.

Plastic microbeads are often used as emulsifying agents or for exfoliation purposes in cosmetic products that are likely to be washed down the drain such as water based make-up, toothpastes and body washes.  They are also used in some household and industrial cleaning products

Microplastics accumulate in the marine environment because they do not biodegrade and it is considered impossible to recover them once released into riverine or marine environments. Microbeads, washed down drains may end up being transported into aquatic environments such as rivers, lakes streams and the seas where they may be consumed by fauna. The most effective solution to tackling microplastic pollution is to tackle it at source. This means stemming the flow of microplastics such as microbeads entering the marine environment in the first place.

Microbeads and Public Policy

Since 2015, Ireland has held a formal policy position promoting an EU wide prohibition on the manufacture or supply of such products containing microbeads.  In 2016, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government decided that, as Ireland was actively supporting an EU wide prohibition on the use of microbeads in such products, Ireland should seek to lead example and introduce national legislation on this issue. Thus, the Microbeads (Prohibition) Bill 2019 was introduced.

Ireland continues to work to develop a range of other national and international transboundary measures, the latter being drawn up with our EU partners and partners nations signed up to the OSPAR Regional Sea Convention to protect the North East Atlantic.

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