May 22 - California Assembly Passes Ban on Plastic Microbeads


CONTACT: Mark Murray (916) 443-5422

May 22, 2015

California Assembly Passes Ban on Plastic Microbeads

SACRAMENTO – The California Assembly today passed legislation banning plastic microbeads in personal care products sold in California. AB 888, authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), is sponsored by several environmental organizations including Californians Against Waste and now goes to the Senate.

“Toxic microbeads are accumulating in our rivers, lakes and oceans at alarmingly high levels. We can and must act now,” said 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.”

“Plastic microbeads are a serious and completely preventable source of water pollution,” said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste. “If a manufacturer tried to dump 40 tons of plastic pollution into the ocean, they would be arrested and fined for violating the Clean Water Act. But these cosmetic and soap makers are doing the same thing on a daily bases with billions of plastic microbeads washed down millions of drains. Enough is enough.”

Plastic microbeads measure less than 5 millimeters in diameter and are added to facial scrubs and other personal care products as exfoliants or colorants. Plastic microbeads are also found in some toothpastes, despite periodontal health concerns from dentists and consumers and the fact that there is no known benefit to their use. Plastic microbeads are so small that they are often not captured by wastewater filters according to the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, a sponsor of the bill. Other sponsors of AB 888 include Clean Water Action, the 5 Gyres Institute and the Story of Stuff Project.

After they are flushed into sewers, plastic microbeads begin attracting environmental toxins to their surfaces and are eventually eaten by fish and other animals that mistake them for food, thus polluting the food chain. Scientists estimate that 471 million plastic microbeads are released into San Francisco Bay every day. In 2012, research conducted by the 5 Gyres Institute showed there were more than 450,000 plastic microbeads per square kilometer in parts of Lake Erie.

There are many natural alternatives, such as apricot shells and cocoa beans, which are already used instead of plastic microbeads in facial scrubs and other personal care products. AB 888 is supported by over 40 water agencies and environmental and health advocacy organizations throughout California. The bill must be approved by the Senate and governor before becoming law. The law would go into effect January 1, 2020.


Californians Against Waste is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving resources, preventing pollution and protecting the environment through the development, promotion and implementation of waste reduction and recycling policies and programs. Visit to learn more.