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California Governor Signs Microbead Ban into Law

October 9, 2015 | Contact Author | By: Nicole Urbanowicz
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Keywords: microbeads | plastic | California | ban | law | personal care | beauty | waterways

Abstract: Plastic microbeads used in products such as facial scrubs, soaps and toothpaste are prohibited in the state of California on and after Jan. 1, 2020.

After an arduous path to finally ban non-biodegradable microbeads in California, Governor Jerry Brown has officially signed groundbreaking legislation to ban these particle abrasives from being used in personal care and beauty products such as facial scrubs, soaps, and toothpaste.

Plastic microbeads under the bill AB 888 are prohibited in California on and after Jan. 1, 2020. 

The legislation, authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), sets up one of the strongest protections in the country against the use of these materials, which studies have revealed pose a threat to marine life

“AB 888 is a comprehensive solution to the growing problem of microbead pollution. A recent study found a staggering amount of micro-plastic pollution in the San Francisco Bay but these beads have also been found in the open ocean, rivers and the Great Lakes,” said Bloom in an official statement.

“Today, California steps forward to lead the nation in environmental protection by banning this pervasive source of plastic pollution. While other states have passed similar regulations, AB 888 was carefully crafted to avoid any loopholes that would allow for use of potentially harmful substitutes. This legislation ensures that personal care products will be formulated with environmentally-safe alternatives to protect our waterways and oceans," Bloom added. 

The state Assembly in September approved a revised version of Assembly bill 888 after a previous version was crushed by a vote of 19-16 in the state Senate. The first time around, the bill fell two votes short of the 21 votes it needed to pass, even though a number of other states in the U.S. have already banned the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products. A similar bill in California lost by one vote a year ago.

A number of state lawmakers, including Bloom, have argued for manufacturers to use biodegradable exfoliating alternatives to microbeads such as walnut husks, pecan shells, apricot shells and cocoa beans. As of this report, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin and Maine already have bans on non-biodegradable microbeads, with other states with bills in the process such as New York, which await state Senate action. 

Earlier this week, the Canadian Government announced it's in the process of declaring microbeads as "toxic substances" under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and has declared a mandatory survey to be completed by companies that use microbeads.