The state draws up the toughest legislation yet to outlaw microbeads as marine scientists ask for an outright ban across the USA
This month, a group of scientists called for an outright ban on microbeads, arguing that we don’t have time to delay extreme measures until there is more proof for their negative impact on the environment. They did so as California became the latest state to ‘ban the bead’.
The destructive nature of microbeads is clear to anyone with common sense: these tiny pieces of plastic are commonly added to creams, scrubs, toothpastes and gels as a cheap and effective exfoliator. Ranging in size from 0.0004 to 1.24 millimeters, they are too small to be filtered out by water treatment plants. In the USA alone, over 800 trillion microbeads are washed down the drains daily. Another 8 trillion make their way into the water system from sewage treatment plants- that’s enough of these miniscule beads to cover more than 300 tennis courts, every single day. Microbeads end up in our oceans, rivers and lakes, and because they are often confused for fish eggs or other food sources, they are rapidly killing off fish, mammals and seabirds all over the world.
In a paper entitled ‘Scientific evidence supports a ban on microbeads‘, eight experts have called on the government to outlaw them, arguing that we already have proof of how the tiny pieces of plastic are devastating marine eco-systems and that time is running out: we don’t have the means to clean them up, therefore the only solution is to stop manufacturers from using them in the first place.
The state of California agrees, and earlier this month passed a bill which 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 bad news is that the legislation doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2020.
Similar microbead bans are already in place in Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana and Maryland, but some critics say that legislation (which only applies to personal care products) hasn’t gone far enough. Recent endorsement of a ban from leading marine scientists could mean a turning point in the fight against plastic pollution. Because manufacturers are not not going to create a unique product for California and Illinois, it stands to reason that banning microbeads in just a couple of states might force corporations to stop using them across the board. Here’s hoping…
You can take action by signing a petition here, sharing this article, and (last but not least) by boycotting any product that lists polyethylene and polypropylene in the ingredients.
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