California has taken an excellent step toward eliminating unnecessary plastic from the waste stream and keeping plastic pollution out of our waters by banning plastic microbeads. Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 888, hailed as the strongest state microbeads legislation yet.
AB 888 prohibits selling or giving away personal care products - like soaps, toothpastes, and body washes - containing plastic microbeads, in California. The ban will go into effect in 2020. While other states like Illinois, Colorado, and New Jersey have previously banned microbeads, California's ban is a marked victory for our ocean, as it does not contain a loophole for "biodegradable plastic," which has not been proven to actually biodegrade into natural elements in marine environments.
It's also a substantial victory from a practical standpoint. California is a huge state with a large market; it has the largest economy of the United States, and if California were a country, it would have the eighth largest economy in the world. The personal care products industry will now have to reformulate their products sans plastic for sale in this large market. Industry would be wise to phase out plastic microbeads altogether for economies of scale purposes and to keep up with the growing trend of banning the bead.
Meanwhile, the United States legislature is also considering a federal bill to ban microbeads in cosmetics, the Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015. Surfrider Foundation is hopeful our nation's leaders will follow California's great example.