Canada has taken the penultimate step in removing microbeads from store shelves.

The ban, which took effect on July 1, prohibits the manufacture, import and sale of most toiletry products that contain microbeads. Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna announced the ban on Twitter, saying that that the move marks the “final step” in the effort to remove microbeads from Canadian waters.

However, the legislation excludes microbeads in natural health products and non-prescription drugs, which will be banned on July 1, 2019.

The ban is the culmination of a process which began in November of 2016, when the federal government announced they would be banning microbeads following scientific review.

On January 1, 2018, the Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations came into force, stopping the manufacture and import of toiletries that contained microbeads.

Microbeads are small plastic particles used in a variety of personal care products, including soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste brands.

Ranging in size from 10 micrometres to less than 1 millimetre, microbeads can't be filtered out by water-treatment systems, and therefore end up in lakes and rivers.

“They’re in every lake, river and stream. They’re also on land. They’re everywhere,” Sarah Warrack, a graduate student who studies micro-plastics, told CTV Winnipeg.

She added that consumers hoping to reduce the harm of plastics on the environments should exercise vigilance and carefully read labels while shopping.

“Try to look for things that don’t have the word ‘poly’ in them like polyester,” she said. “Usually, that means plastic.”

Eva Pip, a retired biology professor from the University of Winnipeg who has been studying water quality for 40 years, told CTV Winnipeg that the fragments of plastic found in microbeads create pollution and can take centuries to disintegrate.

“They keep recycling and recycling within the ecosystem and we have to find some way to try to deal with this,” Pip said.

The move comes alongside calls for a ban on single-use plastic items, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling on G7 leaders to sign on to a zero-waste plastics charter to eliminate plastic waste around the world.  

With a report from CTV Winnipeg's Beth Macdonell.