Illinois became the first state to ban microbeads less than two weeks ago, but one Congress member figures it’s never too early to spur change on a larger scale.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would place a federal ban on microbeads, the small plastic particles found in many beauty and cosmetic products. The exfoliants are tiny enough to slip through water treatment systems after consumers wash them down the drain, pushing them to local streams, rivers and larger bodies of water.

Pallone’s legislation would ban the sale or distribution of cosmetics products containing plastic microbeads by Jan. 1, 2018.

Less than two weeks after Illinois made history as the first state to ban the sale of products containing microbeads, a Congressman has followed up with a federal proposal. Photo credit: 5 Gyres/Twitter
Less than two weeks after Illinois made history as the first state to ban the sale of products containing microbeads, a Congressman has followed up with a federal proposal. Photo credit: 5 Gyres/Twitter

“Many people buying these products are unaware of their damaging effects,” Pallone said in a statement. “If we know that these products will eventually reach our waterways, we must make sure that they don’t contain synthetic plastic that does not biodegrade and ultimately pollute our waterways.”

The 5 Gyres Institute, which surveyed the Great Lakes region for micro-plastic concentration, applauded Pallone’s proposal.

“This is a huge victory for 5 Gyres, and for the clean-water community,” said Anna Cummins, 5 Gyres co-founder and executive director. “Until we see the actual bill, we are cautiously optimistic—our coalition partners will unanimously oppose any bill that allows for bioplastics or degradable plastics being used as an alternative. No form of plastics belong in products that wash into our precious waterways.”

Cummins said the group was confident that politicians, the public and non-governmental organizations could unite on passing a federal ban. 

“We have a responsibility to put a stop to this unnecessary plastic pollution,” Pallone said. “By phasing out the use of plastic microbeads and transitioning to non-synthetic alternatives, we can protect U.S. waters before it’s too late.”

The Illinois ban requires manufacturers to remove synthetic microbeads from their process by the end of 2018, while sales will be illegal in 2019. 

L’Oreal, The Body Shop, Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble are among the companies who have already agreed to phase out the use of microbeads.