Answering Questions about Microbeads
What are plastic microbeads?
Plastic microbeads are tiny beads used primarily as cleansers and exfoliants in some personal care products, including facial scrubs, body washes and toothpaste.
Why are people concerned about microbeads?
Microbeads are very small. While state-of-the-art municipal wastewater plants can capture them, older plants may not be able to screen them out of wastewater. After they rinse down the drain, over time microbeads may end up in waterways such as rivers, streams, lakes and oceans.
How are product manufacturers and regulators addressing this issue?
Many personal care product companies have voluntarily phased out the use of plastic microbeads in their products. Other companies are expected to follow suit.
In addition, some states are restricting the manufacture and sale of personal care products containing plastic microbeads. In 2014, Illinois became the first U.S. state to enact legislation banning the manufacture and sale of products containing microbeads; the two-part ban goes into effect in 2018 and 2019. Other states are crafting similar bills. These legislative efforts have broad support from many industry, manufacturing and environmental groups.
U.S. plastics manufacturers also have helped lead the development of the plastics industry’s “Global Declaration on Solutions for Marine Litter”, which has been signed by more than 60 plastics associations in 34 countries. Today, more than 185 projects focused on preventing or reducing marine debris are under way around the globe.