On Friday 4th September 2015 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 The 5 Gyres Institute, Californians Against Waste (CAW), The Story of Stuff Project, Clean Water Action and the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA). It is also supported by over 75 environmental and health advocacy organizations, clean water agencies and green businesses throughout California.
The bill now heads 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. This 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.”
“Our research estimates that there are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans. AB 888 will eliminate a significant source of plastic pollution at the source, before it ever has a chance to reach the oceans,” said Anna Cummins, 5 Gyres Executive Director. "We are proud to cosponsor legislation that would give California the strongest protection in the country against the dangers of plastic microbeads."
“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.”
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 over 350,000 microbeads.
They are designed to wash down the drain and are so small that they escape wastewater treatment, and up in local waterways and eventually the ocean. Research indicates that over 471 million plastic microbeads are washing each day into the San Francisco Bay alone. They then attract chemicals such as PCBs and flame retardants to their surfaces, which 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 sea salt, have successfully been used instead of plastic microbeads in personal care products for years.
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.