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U.S. to ban microbeads starting in 2017


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December 29, 2015 by Canadian Plastics

President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill that phases out the production and sale of plastic microbeads in the U.S.

The new “Microbead-Free Waters Act” – which was approved earlier this month by the House of Representatives – will come into effect on July 1, 2017, and bans the U.S. manufacture of such personal care products as soap, toothpaste, and other similar items from containing microbeads; it also bans the sale of products containing microbeads, imported or domestic, effective July 1, 2019.

The new law also defines a “microbead” as any solid plastic particle that is less than 5 millimeters in size.

The little pieces of plastic – generally made of polyethylene – are often used as abrasive exfoliants in toothpastes and facial cleansers, and can end up in waterways after they rinse down the drain and flow through the filtration systems at wastewater treatment plants.

At least nine U.S. states and numerous local jurisdictions already have bans on microbeads in personal care products.

Directly on the heels of Obama’s signing of the bill, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) signaled its support of the new Act. “ACC and its members applaud President Obama and the U.S. Congress for taking this important step to ensure there is one sensible, national standard to phase out solid-plastic microbeads from rinse-off personal care products across America,” the association said in a December 28 statement. “This new law reflects national product stewardship efforts by the personal care industry to phase out the use of solid plastic microbeads used in personal care exfoliating products. ACC and our global partners have launched more than 185 projects under our Declaration of the Global Plastics Associations for Solutions on Marine Litter since 2011. Support for microbead legislation is one such project.”