The Connecticut General Assembly passed a budget bill in June that includes a provision to ban the sale and manufacture of plastic microbeads in cosmetic products.
Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic added to over 100 different personal care products, including facial scrubs, shampoos and toothpastes. It is estimated that Connecticut residents wash more than three tons of microbeads down the drain each year. The plastic particles are too small to be caught by wastewater treatment plants, so millions of these non-biodegradable plastic particles end up in our waterways.
These microbeads stay in the environment for more than 50 years and are ingested by marine animals. The beads also absorb other chemicals from the environment such as pesticides and PCB’s and are transporting these pollutants through aquatic ecosystems. Environmentalists and legislators agree: the cosmetic benefits of microbeads are not worth the environmental risk.
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Some states ban plastic microbeads, but allow biodegradable microbeads, touted as an alternative. Researchers have expressed doubt that these plastics are actually biodegradable in marine environments. Connecticut lawmakers closed this loophole by requiring manufacturers to provide so-called biodegradable microbeads to the independent Connecticut Academy of Science & Engineering (CASE) for testing to demonstrate that microbeads biodegrade and have no negative impact on the environment.
Manufacturers have three years to discontinue the use of microbeads in products sold in Connecticut. Until then, steer clear of face scrubs and other personal care products that include
Polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon in the ingredients list.
This is an important step towards protecting our environment, but, as always, it is our job as consumers to stay informed and make responsible choices with the products we use.
Selena West is an intern at the Office of the Community Lawyer. She is a sophomore at New York University.