Cosmetic companies in Australia will be ban if they fail to phase out the micro beads within a year. This was stated by Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

Micro beads are tiny plastic particles found in face scrubs and body washes. They have become an environmental concern. Addressing a meeting of state and federal ministers in Sydney, Hunt said the government has a “stronger stance” on this issue.

“We will continue to work with companies towards a voluntary phase-out of microbeads,” Hunt said.

“However, if by 1 July 2017 it is clear that the voluntary phase-out will not achieve what is effectively a widespread ban on micro beads, the Federal Government will take action to implement a ban in law,” the minister added.

Companies have been given the option to remove micro beads by the end of 2017. Used in exfoliation creams, face scrubs, toothpastes and cosmetics, micro beads are used as replacement for natural ingredients like walnut kernels, reports The ABC.

Media reports have already highlighted the risks posed by micro beads. Some reports have pointed to the fishes in Sydney harbour swallowing these tiny plastic particles.  And thus, the beads find their way to humans.

According to scientists, nearly 300,000 microbeads are present in a bottle of face scrub, labelled as polyethylene or high-density polyethylene in the ingredients.

Many companies have committed for a voluntary phase-out. They include Unilever, L’Oreal, Beiersdorf, Reckitt Benckiser, Johnson and Johnson. However, environmentalists are unhappy with the slow pace in Australian government’s approach. They point to the tough laws in the United States for banning production and sale of such products.

Meanwhile, considerable lethargy has been reported among bigger Australian states in banning plastic shopping bags. Small states such as South Australia, Tasmania and territories have already banned plastic bags. It has been estimated that an average 50 million bags are littered each year.

States such as Queensland and NSW are reportedly slow despite mulling a joint action plan, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

Monday’s meeting of environment Ministers also reviewed the progress made by each state in banning plastic bags. The meeting decided to have a coordinated approach by involving Victoria in the process, along side NSW and Queensland.

Earlier the bilateral plan of NSW and Queensland to ban plastic bags was opposed by retailers citing compliance issues. With Victoria joining the joint approach, a uniform action plan for all the three states will be unfolding in the coming months.