On June 8, Illinois became the first state to ban the manufacture and sale of personal care products containing synthetic plastic microbeads. Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 2727, which was sponsored by Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Representative Jaime Andrade Jr. (D-Chicago). The bill will require synthetic microbeads to be removed from manufacturing by the end of 2018 and bans the sale of such items by the end of 2019 in Illinois.
Microbeads are commonly used as exfoliants and are found in more than 100 products, including toothpaste and face scrubs. They often appear in product lists as polyethylene or polypropylene. In many cases, these microplastics make their way into natural waters because they are not removed during wastewater treatment due to their size and buoyancy. For instance, Lake Ontario has an average of 80,000 microbeads per kilometer, as reported in Lake Scientist.
California and New York are also on their way to banning microbeads. In May, both state assemblies passed bills that would ban the sale of cleaning and personal care products containing microbeads. California’s A.B. 1699 would ban the sale of products with more than 1 part per million microbeads starting in January 2019. New York’s Microbead Free Waters Act (A. 8744) would prohibit the manufacture, distribution, and sale of products with microbeads that are 5 millimeters or less in size.
Some companies, including Proctor & Gamble, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive Co., already have committed to phasing out microbeads.