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L’Oréal announces microbead wipeout following NY proposed ban

By Michelle Yeomans+

13-Feb-2014
Last updated on 13-Feb-2014 at 17:40 GMT

Following New York's Attorney General proposing a ban on plastic microbeads this week, L’Oréal has stepped forward, announcing it will wipe the material from its scrubs by 2017.

Long Island Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert K. Sweeney joined the AG, Eric Schneiderman in proposing the ‘first-in-the-nation' legislation that bans a form of plastic pollution that they say is an emerging threat to New York’s Great Lakes and other bodies of water.

Micro-beads have commonly been used as exfoliants in skin care scrubs, shower gels and soaps. These abrasives then get rinsed down the drain and are not able to be filtered out at sewage treatment plants.

Now, L’Oréal says it has been aware of possible concerns about the environmental impact of the polyethylene beads in its scrubs for some time and the Group’s research team has examined the issue and decided to gradually phase them out.

Phasing out could be harder than initially thought

However; the cosmetics giant says phasing out the ingredient will be a complex process.

"It requires the analysis & identification of viable alternative(s) that can meet many criteria (including human & environmental safety, efficacy, sustainable sourcing of the raw material and overall costs)," reps said in a statement yesterday.

L’Oréal is now looking for natural alternatives (for e.g : mineral particles, fruit seeds) that can provide for the same efficacy and safety as before.

"The phasing out will be first achieved for Biotherm (2014) and The Body Shop (2015) before being extended to all the Group’s portfolio in 2017," reps forecasted.

Proposed ban may encourage more companies to take the pledge

This ‘Microbead-Free Waters Act’ proposed aims to prohibit the production, manufacture, distribution and sale in New York of any beauty product, cosmetic or other personal care product containing plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in size.

According to Committee Chair, Sweeney; “When people learn more about this issue, they will be unwilling to sacrifice water quality just to continue to use products with plastic microbeads." 

Some of the biggest cosmetic and personal care producers have already made moves to ban them from formulations in a bid to avoid plastic pollution though.

Three leading beauty product manufacturers – Proctor and Gamble, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive – have all made recent commitments to phase out the use of microbeads in their products.

Other companies, such as Burt’s Bees, have never used these plastics in their products. 

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