Products with plastic microbeads to be banned under new California law

Plastic microbeads

Environmental activist and scientist Marcus Eriksen points to plastic particles he was able to collect using a fine mesh net at the confluence of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco just north of downtown L.A. in January 2014

(Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown approved measure Thursday that will ban exfoliating microbeads in personal care products.

The measure by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) will prohibit the sale of soaps, facial and body scrubs, toothpaste and other products with plastic microbeads as of Jan. 1, 2020.

Environmentalists advocated for the ban, saying the tiny plastic particles can get through typical water treatment plants and end up polluting waterways.

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The measure was changed in the face of opposition from businesses, including Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble. Late amendments deleted references to natural exfoliants from the measure, and removed a requirement that the state Department of Toxic Substances Control evaluate alternatives to plastic microbeads.

Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, which sponsored the bill, said the purpose of the legislation -- to eliminate plastic particles from soaps, shampoos and toothpastes -- remained intact.

“We were basically saying: no plastic in these products that are washed down the drain,” Murray said. “That was always the objective and that’s exactly what the governor signed today.”

Bloom heralded the measure, AB 888, as the most stringent ban in the nation. Other states including Illinois have banned microbeads but have included exemptions for biodegradable plastic particles.


“While other states have passed regulations on the use of microbeads, this legislation was carefully crafted to avoid any loopholes that would allow for use of potentially harmful substitutes,” Bloom said in a statement. “AB 888 ensures that personal care products will be formulated with environmentally safe alternatives.”

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.


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