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California is 2nd State to propose ban on microbeads in cosmetics

By Michelle Yeomans+

17-Feb-2014
Last updated on 19-Feb-2014 at 09:07 GMT

Following New York's Attorney General proposing a ban on plastic microbeads last week, California is the second state to get on board with the initiative.

The bill, which would impose civil penalties, isn’t as drastic as New York’s, which would ban not just the sale, but also the manufacture of products containing plastic particles 5mm or smaller in diameter.

It all started with NY's AG Eric Schneiderman who proposed the ‘first-in-the-nation' legislation that bans a form of plastic pollution that he says is an emerging threat to the 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, Californian democratic Assemblyman Richard Bloom plans to introduce a bill that would ban the sale of products containing the microbeads.

If the industry is roughly on the same page in recognising the long-term danger to sea life and habitat ... this is going to be a very easy process,” he said.

Cosmetic companies implement 'phase outs' following the proposal

Following Schneiderman's proposal last week L’Oréal stepped forward, announcing it will wipe the material from its scrubs by 2017.

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.

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.

Three other leading beauty product manufacturers – Proctor and Gamble, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive – have also 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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