Cosmetic products containing tiny plastic particles known as microbeads will be banned in New Zealand by May 2018.

Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson said the ban would also be widened from that first proposed, to include all "wash off" products for visual appearance, exfoliating, cleansing or abrasive cleaning purposes.

"Foodstuffs have already removed products with plastic microbeads from their shelves. Major manufacturers are also phasing out plastic microbead ingredients," Simpson said.

The Government had in January announced the intention to the ban microbead products, and has now confirmed when that ban will kick-in.

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The move was welcomed by scientists, though they said New Zealand had been slow to act and further reduction of other plastics was needed. Environmentalists want the Government to go further by banning or taxing plastic bags.

New Zealand's cosmetics industry said bans imposed by overseas countries meant most large manufacturers were already phasing out microbeads.