Yesterday, Minnesota announced a ban on plastic microbeads, nearly a year after Illinois became the first state to ban them. With New York’s Microbead-Free Waters Act pending, more states are set to follow suit, as lawmakers act on the microbead pollution problem.
According to the 5 Gyres Institute, which published a peer-reviewed microbead study in 2013, the problem is that the microscopic beads–smaller than a grain of sand–are too small to be filtered out of wastewater. And they’re everywhere: In toothpaste, makeup, soaps and scrubs. Typically made of polyethylene and polypropylene, the microbeads end up in streams, lakes and oceans, where they are ingested by fish and filter up the food chain.
5 Gyres pressured companies like The Body Shop and Unilever to agree to phase out plastic microbeads in favor of natural ingredients like crushed walnut shells or sugar, which has been used for decades as a skin exfoliant. (Want to make an easy DIY organic face scrub and mask? Click here for the recipe!)
Looks like these little buggers are on their way out.