California Passes Bill Restricting Plastic Microbeads

September 23, 2015
  |   Kirsten Bergstrom
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On Friday, September 4, 2015, the California State Assembly passed a bill restricting the sale of personal care products that contain environmentally hazardous plastic microbeads. If signed into law, the bill will prohibit "selling or offering for promotional purposes in this state a personal care product containing plastic microbeads that are used to exfoliate or cleanse in a rinse-off product." The legislation would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Many personal care products contain micro-plastic particles employed as exfoliants. These plastic beads harm our waterways and the life that lives there. They even enter our food chain. Microplastic particles are found in all oceanic gyres, bays, gulfs and seas worldwide. Once in the environment, microplastics absorb persistent organic pollutants.

Microplastics are consumed by a variety of marine life, including fish we consume.

The passing of this bill brings us one step closer to removing a signifigant form of plastics from our oceans and waterways.  While, an earlier version of the bill required that only natural products, such as ground walnut shells, be used instead of microbeads, that bill failed and advocates then agreed to remove those provisions, resulting in a second opportunity for the bill to pass, as it did in the state Senate the next day.

Similar microbead bans are already in place in in Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana and Maryland.

Pressure by ExploringCircle partners 5 Gyres and Story of Stuff, and other groups, has resulted in more and more of these companies choosing to replace microbeads with natural alternatives. Support is still needed to pass a national ban on plastic microbeads.

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