California Passes Nation’s Strongest Ban on Plastic Microbeads
Yesterday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation’s toughest ban on personal care products containing plastic microbeads, such as toothpastes, soaps and scrubs designed to be rinsed down the drain. Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) authored AB 888 after trillions of the tiny spheres of plastic ended up in rivers, lakes and oceans, where they are mistaken for food by fish and other wildlife.
It's official: @JerryBrownGov has signed the strongest microbead legislation in the world! #bandthebead #victory http://t.co/IEheOhSocB— The Story of Stuff (@The Story of Stuff)1444333479.0
“AB 888 is a comprehensive solution to the growing problem of microbead pollution. A recent study found a staggering amount of micro-plastic pollution in the San Francisco Bay but these beads have also been found in the open ocean, rivers and the Great Lakes,” said Assembly Member Bloom. “California steps forward to lead the nation in environmental protection by banning this pervasive source of plastic pollution. While other states have passed similar regulations, AB 888 was carefully crafted to avoid any loopholes that would allow for use of potentially harmful substitutes. This legislation ensures that personal care products will be formulated with environmentally-safe alternatives to protect our waterways and oceans.”
AB 888 is sponsored by the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA), Californians Against Waste (CAW), Story of Stuff Project, 5 Gyres Institute and Clean Water Action.
According to CASA, after plastic microbeads are rinsed down the drain, their small size allows them to often bypass wastewater treatment filters. They then end up in local waterways and eventually the ocean where they attract chemicals such as PCBs and flame retardants to their surfaces. This can pose a threat to human health when fish and other organisms mistake them for food and the toxins make their way up the food chain.
“It never made sense to put billions of bits of plastic in products designed to be rinsed down the drain, polluting water and threatening wildlife,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. “California has adopted the strictest ban on polluting plastic microbeads in the nation and it will serve as the defacto national standard.”
Unlike plastic microbead bans passed in other states, AB 888 does not allow for companies to use plastic microbeads that are made of new formulations of plastic that their producers claim are safe or “biodegradable” because such claims have not been scientifically proven.
“The sponsors and author of the California Microbeads Bill drafted our policy to be the most environmentally responsible in the world. We simply banned plastic microbeads of any kind,” said Stiv Wilson, campaigns director for the Story of Stuff Project. “If industry wants to use a form of biodegradable plastic, they’re going to have to prove it’s totally safe before they can use it. We are not taking their word for it. Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble fought us every step of the way, never producing a shred of evidence about the safety of their so-called ‘green innovation’ alternatives. The state of California called their bluff.”
Earlier this year, the Story of Stuff Project produced this online video to explain plastic microbeads pollution:
The 5 Gyres Institute, a leading research organization focusing on plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, recently discovered microbeads on a research expedition in the Great Lakes, where they found as many as 466,000 microplastics per square kilometer. And in California, the institute estimates that 471 million microbeads are dumped into the San Francisco Bay every single day.
“Our research estimates that there are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans. AB 888 will eliminate a significant contributor of plastic pollution at the source, before it ever has a chance to reach the oceans,” said Anna Cummins, executive director of the 5 Gyres Institute. “We are proud to cosponsor legislation that will give California the strongest protection in the country from harmful plastic microbeads.”
“The shocking part about the fight to get AB 888 passed in California is that plastics are a major but totally avoidable form of toxic pollution in a state with limited water resources,” said Andria Ventura, toxics program manager for Clean Water Action. “Safe alternatives have been on the market since before plastic existed. Clean Water Action’s members overwhelmingly supported this bill because they don’t want to contaminate our waters by the simple action of washing their faces.”
Plastic microbeads measure less than 5 millimeters in diameter and are added to facial scrubs, toothpastes and other personal care products as colorants or exfoliants. A single product can contain 350,000 microbeads. Many natural alternatives, such as apricot shells and cocoa beans, have already successfully been used instead of plastic microbeads in personal care products.
AB 888 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020 and will keep an estimated 38 tons of plastic pollution out of California’s freshwater and marine environments every year.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
In a dramatic rescue captured on camera, a Florida man ran into a pond and pried open an alligator's mouth in order to rescue his beloved puppy, all without dropping his cigar.
- 'He had green eyes': Florida man will paint alligator that attacked him ›
- Florida alligator attack: A woman was attacked by a 10-foot alligator ... ›
- Weird presidential pets include alligator, tiger cub, dog named Satan ... ›
- Alligators make terrible pets: 'You're basically dealing with a dinosaur.' ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
- Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment - EcoWatch ›
- Scuba Divers Make Face Masks out of Recycled Ocean Plastic ... ›
By Bret Wilkins
In a year in which the United States has already suffered 16 climate-driven extreme weather events causing more than $1 billion in economic damages, and as millions of American workers face loss of essential unemployment benefits due to congressional inaction, a report published Monday reveals the Trump administration has given fossil fuel companies as much as $15.2 billion in direct relief — and tens of billions more indirectly — through federal COVID-19 recovery programs since March.
- 'We Need People's Bailout, Not Polluters' Bailout': Climate Groups ... ›
- Corporate Polluters Have Received Tens of Millions in PPP Loans ... ›
- Trump Bails Out Oil Industry, Not U.S. Families, as Coronavirus ... ›
- Former Federal Reserve Governor Rebukes Fed for Fossil Fuel Bail ... ›
By Ashia Aubourg
As Thanksgiving approaches, some Indigenous organizations and activists caution against perpetuating further injustices towards Native communities. Indigenous activist Mariah Gladstone, for example, encourages eaters to celebrate the harvest time in ways that do not involve stereotypes and pilgrim stories.
- Why Face Masks Belong at Your Thanksgiving Gathering + 7 Things ... ›
- Reasons to Be Thankful — 8 Food and Farm 'Good News' Stories ... ›
- Why I'm Going to Standing Rock for Thanksgiving - EcoWatch ›
By Alex Middleton
Losing weight and reducing fat is a hard battle to fight. Thankfully, there are fat burner supplements that help you gain your target body and goal. However, how would you know which supplement is right for you?