Last month, Canada took its first steps to joining the United States and banning the inclusion of plastic “microbeads” that commonly appear in hygiene products geared toward exfoliating the skin.
These microbeads, measuring 5 millimeters or less, are too small to be filtered out by sewage treatment plants. This results in plastic pollution entering our water systems and harming wildlife, as well as the safety of our water.
One tube of facial cleanser can contain up to a half a million microbeads.
Remarkably, once the problem became known, action on it was swift. The cosmetic industry has begun to voluntarily phase out plastic microbeads in their products.
Action on the federal level was swift as well. In December of 2015, Congress passed legislation requiring a full ban on microbeads beginning July 1, 2018.
Canada was a little slower to act, but on November 4th, the Canadian government committed to joining the United States and phasing out microbeads by July of 2019.
In Canada, microbeads have been found in British Columbia, the St. Lawrence River, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Great Lakes as well.
“While they may not seem scary, these tiny plastic beads can have a devastating impact on fish, wildlife, and humans,” says Kristy Meyer, managing director of Ohio Environmental Council of Natural Resources.
The cosmetics industry was quick to support the legislation banning microbeads. The Plastics Industry Trade Association, Consumer Healthcare Products Associations, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, the Personal Care Products council, and the American Chemistry Council all backed the legislation.
Europe and Australia have also set into motion plans to ban and phase out microbeads.