Movements to ban microbeads in hygiene products have been on the rise both domestically and abroad, but Illinois’s new law is the first concrete piece of legislation to do so. Three states – California, Ohio and New York – are all considering similar bans, with a fourth, Minnesota, studying the impact of microplastics on the environment.
“Banning microbeads will help ensure clean waters across Illinois and set an example for our nation to follow,” Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said in a statement. “Lake Michigan and the many rivers and lakes across our state are among our most important natural resources. We must do everything necessary to safeguard them.”
This ban comes on the heels of a joint study of microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes performed by the 5 Gyres Institute and Sherri Mason, an associate professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia. Through the summers of 2012 and 2013, Mason and 5 Gyres scoured the five Great Lakes with the Institute’s “manta trawls.”
Microbeads are plastics formed from polyethylene or polypropylene and range in size between 0.0004 – 1.24 mm, too small to be captured by wastewater treatment plants. The 5 Gyres’ manta trawls can scour for much smaller particles, and that was how the team discovered the massive volume of microplastic crowding each of the Great Lakes. In Lake Ontario, up to 1.1 million plastic particles were found per square kilometer.
The Illinois ban will begin to take effect in late 2018, when all companies will be ordered to cease microbead production. Sales of microbead products will cease in 2019.