D.C. ban on microbeads proposes strict fines

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Photo courtesy of Oregon State University
Photo courtesy of Oregon State University

Related tags United states Proposals

The District of Columbia has taken one of the strictest stances on state-wide proposals to ban mircobeads in personal care products.

Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration is proposing a ban starting January 1, 2018 that proposes fines of up to $37,500 for supplying, manufacturing or importing personal care products containing microbeads in the District any time after that date.

The proposed ban has raised eyebrows in view of the large fines, particularly as a forthcoming ban on Styrofoam cups in the District, due to be enforced on January 1, 2016, has fixed fines at just $100.

Aim is to make waterways microbead-free

The bill states that in addition to the fine, the violator will also have to pay legal fees and damages involved in any relevant court action.

The ban is part of the District’s omnibus fisheries and wildlife bill, which was introduced by the D.C. administration last week, with the aim of ensuring D.C.’s marine and waterways remain pollutant-free.

Microbeads have been in the spotlight for the past two years, on account of a growing body of scientific evidence that the tiny non-biodegradable plastic beads, are accumulating in waterways and marine environments, causing significant damage to aquatic life.

Federal and State law enforcement

So far approximately ten US states have mooted bills that will ban microbeads in the future, while there are also plans under way to introduce a federal ban.

Recent research conducted by a team based out of Oregon State University suggests that the only way of tackling the current environmental problems caused by microbeads is a total ban.

The research, which was published in the most recent edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, estimates that 8 trillion microbeads are being emitted into aquatic habitats in the US alone on a daily basis, which the team estimates is enough to cover around 300 tennis courts – estimates that the team said were on the conservative side.

A US federal ban by 2018?

Representatives Fred Upton (R-Mich) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced federal legislation to ban plastic microbeads from personal care, taking a similar stand to the legislations that have already been passed at a state level.

As the bill gathers momentum in the Washington D.C. legislative process, mounting awareness of the environmental harm microbeads cause, which has resulted from concerted campaigns behind the state legislations, is likely to offer a smoother passage to this federal legislation.

If passed, the federal bill would ban the sale or distribution of cosmetics products containing plastic microbeads throughout the US, effective January 1, 2018.

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