House Bill 15-1144, sponsored by Rep, Dianne Primavera, was heard last week by the Colorado public health committee and won preliminary approval, which means it will now be heard by the Senate to secure final approval.
The bill falls in line with similar regulatory that are being introduced in a growing number of states nationwide, aimed at tackling the pollution problem that is occurring in waterways and marine areas throughout the country due to accumulation of the non-biodegradable plastic microbeads.
Bill proposes ban by 2020
The bill proposes to ban the production, manufacture and sale of personal care product containing plastic microbeads less than 5 millimetres in size, anywhere in the state of Colorado.
It also states that the intention is to phase the bill gradually over a period of two years, from January 1st 2018, leading up to a total ban by the January 1st 2020.
Penalties for violations would be in the $1,000 to $10,000 range and would be implemented by the Department of Public Health and Environment, and levied on the basis of where the violations took place.
Johnson & Johnson behind legislation
Primavera told The Colorado Statesman the request to carry the legislation had come from personal care giant Johnson & Johnson, which has already pledged to phase out microbeads in all its products, but wanted to ensure that smaller companies were also on the same course.
Many other of the largest personal care players in the US are already supporting the ban, and have proposed to phase out the use of microbeads in their formulations.
So far two states – Illinois and New Jersey – have implemented a future ban on microbeads, while dozens of other states are currently mulling similar regulation.
However, in California, a bill proposing to ban microbeads was rejected when it went to a house vote last year, but is expected to be proposed again during the course of this year.
Formulators are now on the look-out for biodegradable eco-friendly alternatives, but finding the right solution has thrown up its challenges, too.
One viable alternative is wax-based exfoliators, like jojoba beads, which are said to have the same efficacy as the plastic microbeads, but are biodegradable.
However, even this kind of alternative is said to have potentially negative consequences, asGreg Boyer at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry pointed out in an interview with the Guardian newspaper last year.
Biodegradable solutions not without challenges
The problem, he believes, is potentially negative consequence due to degrading sugars that biochemically 'burn' sugar for energy.
"If you have any type of stratified water column there may not be enough oxygen present to support this process, hence the bacteria draw down the oxygen to a point where fish and other critters die," he told the publication.
"The algae grow in the top water, settle down to the bottom waters and the bacteria decompose them and use all the available oxygen in the bottom waters. Adding a natural carbon source, either sugar or nut shell, would only make the problem worse. Because synthetic microplastic beads don't degrade well, they don't tend to cause this problem," he added.