Environmental Policy News

Obama Signs Federal Microbeads Ban

Federal ban to be stricter than many state bans.

After both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives unanimously passed the Microbeads-Free Waters Act during December 2015, it moved to the desk of President Obama where it is was signed into law on 28 December 2015.


H.R. 1321, the “Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015,” prohibits the manufacture and introduction into interstate commerce of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads. The bill was introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D) of New Jersey in March 2015 and found zero opposition in Congress. It had bipartisan support.

One organization instrumental in educating the public and their representatives on this issue is 5Gyres. ECO Magazine ran a full feature on them in our July 2013 issue, when we learned a lot about plastic pollution in our oceans. We recently revisited 5 Gyres to see what they liked about the new federal microbeads ban. Here is their response.

After 5Gyres worked to get microbeads successfully banned in California, the organization began to tackle the issue on a national level. They couldn't be more excited about the bill passing through Congress. Here's why:

1. It has an even more aggressive timeline than the California bill and -- requiring that microbeads are phased out by 2017 vs. 2020. That means 3 years worth of microbead containing products are kept out of our shared waters.

2. It doesn’t contain a "biodegradable" loophole. Several state bills (IL, ME, NJ, CO, IN) include language written by the plastics industry that allow manufacturers to replace petroleum-based plastic microbeads with “bioplastic” beads, which don’t biodegrade in the ocean.

3. Getting National legislation introduced and passed, will educate many more people across the country about the issues relating to microbeads. National bills result in media, articles, press releases, and more people engaged to take steps in the meantime. The number one thing people can do is don’t buy products containing microbeads. 

4. The bill bans all rinse-off cosmetics, which includes toothpaste. It doesn’t however include cosmetics such as fillers, creams or cleaning products in general – that is the next phase of the campaign.

For more information, see the entire bill at www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1321/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22microbeads%22%5D%7D&resultIndex=1.

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