Tag Archives: microbeads

Wisconsin to phase out microplastics to protect Great Lakes

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signed the legislation aimed at phasing out the sale and manufacture of personal care products containing microplastics that pollute the state’s water, including the Great Lakes.

“We’re elated to finally have the microbeads bill signed into law,” said Amber Meyer Smith, director of government relations of Clean Wisconsin, the largest state-based environmental organization in Wisconsin.

She continued, “This is the kind of bipartisan legislation we need to ensure our environment remains clean now and for generations to come, and we’d like to thank the authors for their attention on this topic.”

Introduced by state Sen. Rob Cowles and state Rep. Mary Czaja in January, the law will phase out the manufacture and sale of personal care products containing microbeads — small pieces of plastic added to products like body scrubs and toothpastes. The tiny plastic particles end up in waterways, where they can threaten the environment and human health.

Wisconsin is the seventh state to sign a microbeads bill into law, according to Clean Wisconsin. The other states are Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana and Maryland.

“It’s great to see Wisconsin ahead of the curve on this issue,” said Smith in a news release. “Given the potential danger microbeads represent, and the cost-effective replacements for these plastic particles, it’s crucial we do all we can to get these microbeads out of our products and our waters.”

More than an estimated 10,000 pounds of microbeads are washed down Wisconsin drains each year. Due to their small size, microbeads can move through water treatment systems and into waterways. Once there, the microbeads continue to accumulate as they don’t easily break down in the environment. In addition, the plastic particles can find their way into fish and accumulate in greater amounts as large fish eat smaller fish, a process called biomagnification.

Wisconsin’s law bans the manufacture of microbeads for many products by 2018 and gets those products containing microbeads out of retail stock by 2019.

“Clean Wisconsin is proud to be part of this important movement,” said Smith. “Reducing microplastic pollution in our waterways not only protects our beloved waters, but our wildlife, our drinking water and the health of our families. We hope that more states will soon follow suit and pass laws addressing microplastics.”

Bill to ban microbeads advances

The Wisconsin Senate has advanced legislation aimed at protecting the Great Lakes by scrubbing out personal care products containing microbeads.

The bill — introduced by Republican state Sens. Rob Cowles and Mary Czaja — passed by unanimous voice vote in the Senate, and, as WiG went to press, was awaiting consideration in the Assembly.

The measure would stop the manufacture and stocking for sale of personal care products that contain microbeads, tiny plastic bits found in body scrubs and toothpastes that get rinsed down the drain, wash through water treatment systems and reach Wisconsin waters. 

One bottle of facial scrub with microbeads can contain more than 300,000 plastic particles. These particles do not quickly break down. Instead, they contaminate water and can be ingested by fish and other wildlife.

Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy group, says the chemicals in the plastic or soaked up by the microbeads can cause much greater concentrations of chemicals in animals higher up the food chain.

“It’s imperative that we do all we can to protect our waters and reduce the use of unnecessary microbeads,” said Tyson Cook, Clean Wisconsin director of science and research.

He praised bipartisan support for the bill. 

Other proponents include the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, which issued a statement encouraging members to contact lawmakers in support of the bill. The league’s action notice warned that microbeads “absorb pollutants such as DDT and PCBs, posing a risk to fish communities and human health when they are ingested.”

Wisconsin would join Illinois, New Jersey and several other states that are currently considering banning the beads. Many of the largest personal care companies have already agreed to phase out their use.

Legislation would curb plastic pollution in Great Lakes

Wisconsin lawmakers may consider this legislative session bills to curb the amount of plastic pollution affecting area waters.

Evidence shows plastic microbeads getting into the Great Lakes, according to the Clean Wisconsin environmental group. The microbeads are small pieces of plastic added to products like body scrubs and toothpastes. Because of their small size, they can work through water treatment systems and into waterways and aquatic life, as well as human bodies. Once there, the microbeads keep adding up, because they don’t easily break down in the environment.

“It’s great to see these legislators proactively tackling this emerging environmental issue,” Tyson Cook, director of science and research at Clean Wisconsin, said in a news release. “Legislation like this is critical to protecting our water, our wildlife and our health, here and around the nation.”

The bills from state Sen. Rob Cowles and state Rep. Mary Czaja are based on Illinois’s 2014 law to ban microbeads. The bills would require that manufacturers phase out the use of microbeads in their products in the next few years and ultimately off store shelves. The bills are currently being circulated for co-sponsorship.

Clean Wisconsin cited recent research showing that the Great Lakes are teeming with microbeads. An average of 17,000 tiny pieces of plastic per square kilometer has been found in Lake Michigan. In addition to polluting the water, this plastic gets into fish, where it can harm their digestive systems. Chemicals in the plastic also can cause other abnormalities, and the microbeads can kickstart the process of biomagnification, which causes much greater concentrations of chemicals in animals higher up the food chain.

“While some major companies have agreed to eventually phase out microbeads, it’s imperative that we do all we can to protect our waters and reduce the use of unnecessary microbeads,” stated Cook. “Having focused on keeping pollution out of our waterways for over four decades, Clean Wisconsin is happy to see these among the first bills of the new session and help move them forward.”