Today the California State Senate passed legislation to ban the sale of personal care products containing plastic microbeads. AB 888 is authored by Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and sponsored by Californians Against Waste (CAW), The Story of Stuff Project, The 5 Gyres Institute, Clean Water Action and the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA). The bill is supported by over 75 water agencies, environmental and health advocacy organizations, and green businesses throughout California, and now goes back to the Assembly for approval of amendments made in the Senate.
“Toxic microbeads are accumulating in our rivers, lakes and oceans at alarmingly high levels. We can and must act now,” said Assembly Member Bloom. “Continuing to use these harmful and unnecessary plastics when natural alternatives are widely available is simply irresponsible and will only result in significant cleanups costs to taxpayers who will have to foot the bill to restore our already limited water resources and ocean health.”
“This legislation will eliminate the billions of plastic microbeads that are dumped into California’s precious freshwater and marine environments every day,” said Mark Murray, CAW Executive Director. “I am confident that, if the governor signs this bill, future generations will look back and wonder why these tiny pieces of plastic were ever even considered for use in products that are designed to be washed down the drain.”
“We’re extremely pleased by the passage of AB 888,” said Roberta Larson, CASA Executive Director. “Plastic microbeads can pass through some wastewater treatment plants and make their way into the environment, where they can be harmful to marine life. Controlling these microbeads at their source is simply good public policy. CASA is proud to be a sponsor of this bill, and, along with our agency members, worked hard for its passage.”
Plastic microbeads measure less than 5 millimeters in diameter and are added to facial scrubs, toothpastes and other personal care products as colorants or exfoliants. A single product can contain 350,000 microbeads. They are designed to wash down the drain and are so small that they are rarely captured by wastewater filters, according to CASA. After escaping wastewater treatment, they end up in local waterways and eventually the ocean, where they attract chemicals such as PCBs and flame retardants to their surfaces. This can pose a threat to human health when fish and other organisms mistake them for food and the toxins make their way up the food chain.
Many natural alternatives, such as apricot shells and cocoa beans, have already successfully been used instead of plastic microbeads in personal care products. If signed by the governor, AB 888 would keep 38 tons of plastic pollution out of California's aquatic environment every year. The law would take effect on January 1, 2020.