The environmental damage caused by some skincare products has seen items containing microbeads banned from several Whanganui supermarket shelves.

The Government announced in January that personal care products containing microbeads would be banned from July 2018.

However, Foodstuffs stores throughout New Zealand, including New World, Pak'nSave and Four Square, have gone microbead-free from July 1 this year and Countdown has phased out the use of microbeads in its own brand skincare and body wash products.

Microbeads are tiny beads of plastic used as an exfoliating agent in many skincare products. They are found in some shampoos, shaving creams, sunscreens and toothpastes as well as cleansers and exfoliants.


Microbeads cannot be recycled and there is clear evidence they harm waterways, fish and shellfish when discharged through wastewater systems. They are often mistaken for food by marine life.

Foodstuffs North Island chief executive Chris Quin said the change required a collective approach and Foodstuffs started discussions with suppliers in 2016 with the aim of speeding up the process.

"We're pleased to say that many suppliers had already reformulated their products, substituting the plastic beads with natural ingredients.

"Where brands are unable to meet our needs we'll delist the products until new formulations are available.

"Minimising our impact on the environment is a priority issue and banning microbeads is absolutely the right thing to do. The changes we're making will have a positive impact on marine life - it's great we were able to announce this change on World Oceans Day (June 8).

"That said we know there's more work to be done and we will continue to see how we can reduce plastics wherever we can."

An "amnesty" will be held at New World in Whanganui from 3pm to 6pm on Wednesday, July 26. A microbead product in any condition, full or empty, can be swapped for a non-microbead sample product. Microbeads from the items collected in the amnesty will be extracted and made into another product and the packaging will be recycled.

The following ingredients indicate that microbeads are used in a product: Polyethylene (PE), Nylon - 6, Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA), Polypropylene (PP). There is a Beat the Microbead app available for download to scan products for microplastic ingredients.