Last Thursday, Assembly Member Richard Bloom (Santa Monica) introduced AB 1699, a bill that would ban micro-plastic particle abrasives, or "microbeads" from cosmetic products like facial scrubs, toothpaste, and soap.
Microbeads are small plastic orbs that are put into personal care products for use as scrubbing materials. According to the 5 Gyres Institute, a single product can contain as many as 350,000 microbeads. Microbeads in these products are usually washed down the drain and due to the small size of the beads, no more than 5mm in diameter, they are not captured by sewage and water treatment facilities. As a result, they are then released into waterways where they do not biodegrade and instead absorb toxins such as DDT, PCBs, and other chemicals, to be ingested by marine life who mistake them for food. Microbeads are prevalent in ocean gyres where pollutants collect, in the Great Lakes, in the Los Angeles River, and elsewhere.
If passed, AB 1699 bans companies from making products from using micro beads effective January 2016. The bill, which punishes violators with a fine up to $2500 for each violation, is similar to the New York bill A08744, newly introduced legislation which also bans the sale of microbeads as well as the manufacture of them in the state of New York.
Businesses have the option of using environmentally safe products such as walnut husks, pecan shells, apricot shells, and cocoa beans, and some already are. The three biggest companies, Johnson and Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, Proctor and Gamble, and Colgate-Palmolive have stopped putting microbeads in new products and are taking steps to remove them from existing products.