Kebs to discuss US ban on plastic microbeads use in products

Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble have pledged to remove microbeads in all their products.

Thursday January 7 2016

Kenya Bureau of Standards Managing Director Charles Ongwae at a past event. FILE PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JAMES KARIUKI
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The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has called for the establishment of a multi-stakeholder forum to discuss the use of plastic microbeads in manufacturing cosmetics, soap and toothpaste.

Kebs Managing Director Charles Ongwae said the forum will study pollution of the environment by the microbeads and decide the way forward.

This is after US President Barack Obama banned the inclusion of microbeads in consumer products.

The US President’s move to assent to the Microbead-Free Waters Act gave companies up to July 2017 to stop using plastic microbeads and instead find natural alternatives that are environmentally friendly.

US-based consumer brands giants Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble, which have a market presence in Kenya and East Africa, have pledged to remove microbeads in all their products.

The plastic microbead-laced products are popular with consumers as they are a recent development said to offer fast and lasting results for users.

The products include toothpaste that "whiten" teeth, facial exfoliators and body scrubs.

TEETH

But only a few know that using the microbead products could be introducing pure pollution into their bodies whose adverse effects are yet to be documented.

Some of the microbead-laced toothpaste has been found to leave pieces of plastic on an individual’s teeth that are later swallowed and embedded on one's gullet, stomach wall and the intestines.

On Wednesday, Mr Ongwae said he would consult the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance and the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) on the way forward.

“It is important for us to consult with industry representatives and other relevant government agencies to determine the way forward on the use of plastic microbeads in consumer products,” he said.

He said the effects of microbeads is an environmental one, with no known adverse effect on humans, adding that he would let Nema chart the way forward, with Kebs coming in later to set new standards.

“Our concern would be to identify suitable alternatives to be used in place of plastic microbeads so that standards covering these products could be revised accordingly,” he said.

The plastic microbeads reportedly find their way into lakes and oceans where they are eaten by marine animals that end up dying as the minute pieces get lodged in their stomachs.

A campaign against the use of microbeads started three years ago by two Dutch non-governmental organisations (NGO) (the North Sea Foundation and the Plastic Soup Foundation).

In 2013, the anti-plastic microbeads crusaders received unanimous support from the Nairobi-based United Nations Environmental Programme(Unep) and a UK-based NGO, Flora & Fauna International, joined the campaign.

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