States Limiting Microbead Sales, Production Through Legislation


Cleaning: Soap & Dispensers

With the prevalence of microbeads in both the cosmetic and commercial cleaning marketplaces, waterways are starting to become flooded with tiny, indestructible plastic beads.

But some states are starting to act, both in terms of cooperation and legislation.

Maryland Del. Dan Morhaim sponsored House Bill 216 earlier this year, and it was signed into law by the governor.

The bill prohibits the manufacturing of personal care products containing "synthetic plastic microbeads," starting Dec. 31, 2017. It also prohibits the sale of products containing microbeads, starting Dec. 31, 2018. Additionally, the bill prohibits the manufacturing of an "over-the-counter drug" containing microbeads beginning Dec. 31, 2018, and the sale of such products beginning Dec. 31, 2019.

The law also calls upon the Maryland Department of the Environment to "adopt regulations identifying biodegradable guidelines that are acceptable for use by a wastewater treatment plant ... and periodically review those guidelines to ensure that the most scientifically effective methods are being utilized to prevent, to the maximum extent practicable, the entrance of synthetic plastic microbeads in the natural aquatic environment."

"It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support," says Morhaim. "People worked collaboratively on the bill from all sides. We had the support of the cosmetic industry on the legislation, as well as environmental groups."

A practicing physician, Morhaim teaches at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. A class project allowed students to put together a presentation on microbeads and the dangers associated with them. That work was presented to the Maryland legislature.

"People were able to understand the dynamics of microbeads," he says.

But Maryland wasn't the only state to get in on the action. In Illinois, State Sen. Heather A. Steans sponsored Senate Bill 2727, which was passed in 2014, that also will phase out and ultimately ban manufacture and sale of plastic microbeads used in personal care products. It was an agreement that the Personal Care Products Council supported.

"We are pleased to highlight our work with numerous stakeholders in the state of Illinois who are also committed to protecting the environment through responsible action," stated the organization through a press release.

The Alliance for the Great Lakes Engagement Director Jennifer Caddick referenced Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, Colorado and Wisconsin as other states to join Illinois and Maryland in passing microbead legislation. She said 15 other states are considering legislation, including Great Lakes states like New York, Michigan and Minnesota.

Jonathan DePaolis is a freelance writer based in Frankfort, Illinois.