California Lawmakers Approve Ban On Plastic Microbeads In Cosmetics

The legislation is aimed at saving marine life and waterways polluted by the tiny plastic beads.

The California State Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill restricting the sale of personal care products that contain environmentally hazardous plastic microbeads. The legislation will now head to the desk of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D), the bill’s author, announced the news on Twitter.

Microbeads, commonly found in facial scrubs and toothpastes, don't biodegrade quickly when washed down drains, thus polluting water sources and harming the marine animals that ingest them. If signed into law, Bloom's bill will prohibit "selling or offering for promotional purposes in this state a personal care product containing plastic microbeads that are used to exfoliate or cleanse in a rinse-off product."

The legislation would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

An earlier version of the bill failed in the state Senate on Thursday because of provisions stipulating that only natural products, such as ground walnut shells, could be used as alternatives to microbeads. When proponents of the bill agreed to remove those provisions, the legislation was granted reconsideration and passed in the Senate the following day.

Environmental groups hailed the bill's passage as a major step away from microbeads.

“This legislation will eliminate the billions of plastic microbeads that are dumped into California’s precious freshwater and marine environments every day,” Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, said in a statement. “I am confident that, if the governor signs this bill, future generations will look back and wonder why these tiny pieces of plastic were ever even considered for use in products that are designed to be washed down the drain.”

Roberta Larson, executive director of the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, also applauded the bill's passage and warned of the beads' dangers.

“Plastic microbeads can pass through some wastewater treatment plants and make their way into the environment, where they can be harmful to marine life," she said. "Controlling these microbeads at their source is simply good public policy."

A spokesman for the California Manufacturers & Technology Association declined to comment on the bill's passage, but referred The Huffington Post to the group's previous statement expression opposition to the language -- which has since been removed -- banning biodegradable but non-natural alternatives to microbeads.

Stiv J. Wilson, campaigns director at the Story of Stuff Project, told HuffPost that he'll hold the cosmetics industry to a high standard when it comes to which materials are used as alternatives to microbeads.

"California has passed the most responsible legislation in the world, and now industry can't pull a bait and switch," Wilson said. "If they want [to] use biodegradable plastics as alternatives, they are going to have to prove they're safe to the public."

Similar microbead bans are already in place in in Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana and Maryland.

America's Most Endangered Waterways (2013)