Illinois bans plastic microbeads in personal-care products
CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Sunday banning the manufacture and sale of personal care products containing plastic microbeads.
Environmentalists have said the non-biodegradable plastic particles used as exfoliants in many facial cleansers and soaps slip through sewage system filters and pile up in waterways, where they can harm wildlife. Preliminary studies in Lake Michigan have found millions of microbeads.
The new law bans the manufacture of personal care products containing microbeads by the end of 2017, the sale of personal care products and the manufacture of over-the-counter drugs containing microbeads by the end of 2018, and the sale of over-the-counter drugs containing microbeads by the end of 2019.
At least four other states are considering similar bills, and at least one, in New York, has an earlier deadline — 2016 — for eliminating the microbeads.
Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and L’Oreal already have information on their websites explaining their plans for gradually eliminating the mircobeads from their products and testing for natural alternatives, like ground seeds or nuts.
Unilever says on its website that it plans to complete its phaseout of microbeads globally by 2015.
Until the products are off the shelves, consumers who don’t wish to use products with the plastic bits should watch out for products that list polyethylene and polypropylene in their ingredient lists, according to the Alliance for the Great Lakes, an advocate for protection of the Great Lakes.
"Banning microbeads will help ensure clean waters across Illinois and set an example for our nation to follow," Quinn said. "Lake Michigan and the many rivers and lakes across our state are among our most important natural resources. We must do everything necessary to safeguard them."