Bill would reduce microplastic pollution in our waters; heads to Assembly for vote

MADISON — With unanimous support in the state Senate this afternoon, Wisconsin’s waters, especially our Great Lakes, are one step closer to being protected against the growing problem of microplastic pollution after legislation that would phase out the manufacture of personal care products containing microbeads was passed.

“We’re happy that our state legislature is tackling this emerging environmental issue and moving it forward,” says Tyson Cook, director of science and research at Clean Wisconsin. “Legislation like this is critical to protecting our water, our wildlife and our health, here and around the nation.”

Microbeads are small pieces of plastic added to products like body scrubs and toothpastes. Due to their small size, they can work through water treatment systems and into our waterways, aquatic life and our own bodies. Once there, the microbeads just keep adding up, since they don’t easily break down in the environment.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Rob Cowles and Rep. Mary Czaja, would stop the manufacture and stocking for sale of personal care products that contain microbeads. The bill is based on Illinois’s 2014 law to ban microbeads and is supported by the personal care products industry. It now heads to the state Assembly for a vote.

“While many leading manufacturers have already stopped or are removing plastic microbeads from their products, others have not, leaving many potential microbead-containing products on shelves,” says Cook. “Because a single bottle of microbead face scrub can contain over 300,000 plastic particles, this bill a crucial next step to reduce unnecessary pollution of our waters.”

In addition to polluting the water we enjoy, this plastic gets in the fish we catch, where it can harm their digestive systems. Chemicals in the plastic or soaked up by microbeads can also cause other problems, like kickstarting the process of biomagnification, which causes much greater concentrations of chemicals in animals higher up the food chain.

“It’s imperative that we do all we can to protect our waters and reduce the use of unnecessary microbeads,” says Cook. “Today’s unanimous, bipartisan support of this bill shows the Senate’s commitment to keeping our waters healthy and we hope the Assembly will do the same.”