5 Gyres, NY/NJ Baykeeper, and Clean Ocean Action support alternative

Keyport, N.J. - New Jersey Bill S2178 would phase out plastic microbeads in personal care products such as toothpastes and exfoliating face washes, beginning January 2018. If signed by Governor Christie by early December, New Jersey would become the second state to ban plastic microbeads along with Illinois. 

However, environmental groups such as the 5 Gyres Institute, NY/NJ Baykeeper, and Clean Ocean Action, agree that there is a major loophole in the bill language. 

The current language defines synthetic plastic microbeads as "any intentionally added non-biodegradable, solid plastic particle measuring less than five millimeters in size and used to exfoliate or cleanse in a rinse-off produce."  

But, environmental groups argue that this language excludes "biodegradable" microbeads. This loophole would allow the personal care product industry the right to include bioplastics, made from polylactic acid (PLA), a plastic that could replace the polyethylene microplastics of concern. However, these bioplastics require a high heat environment to decompose. Polylactic acid (PLA), for instance, requires temperatures over 120 degrees to break down, only achieved in a municipal composting facility and thus would not break down in NJ waters.

NY/NJ Baykeeper is urging bill sponsors Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, Senator Linda Greenstein, and Senator Kip Bateman to request a conditional veto from Governor Christie. Baykeeper and other groups are suggesting that the current definition of synthetic plastic microbeads be replaced with the following:

"Synthetic plastic microbeads: any intentionally added plastic particle measuring less than five millimeters in size and used to exfoliate or cleanse in a rinse-off product." 

By removing the word non-biodegradable, the microbead ban will be applicable to all plastic beads in personal care products.

 Anna Cummins, Executive Director, The 5 Gyres Institute: 

 "If 'biodegradable' plastics are allowed into products that are designed to be washed down the drain, then we all lose. We would simply be replacing one bad product with another, continuing to contaminate our waters with a toxic substance that threatens the very ecosystems we depend on for survival. We sincerely hope that legislators will do the right thing here - for all of us." 

 Debbie Mans, Executive Director, NY/NJ Baykeeper:

 "The health of our waterways depends on strong legislation and strong leadership. We hope the sponsors of this bill and Governor Christie will support our suggested language to eliminate all plastic microbeads from our personal care products, and we encourage other states to follow with similar legislation."

Cindy Zipf, Executive Director, Clean Ocean Action:

"There is no place for micro-plastics in waterways and all sources must be eliminated. This includes the micro-beads in consumer goods.  While well intentioned, the current bill does not go far enough to eliminate these in personal care products, thus it must be conditionally vetoed to close the loophole." 

Why Micro Plastics are Harmful to Waterways:

 A growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies. When marine animals consume plastic, presumably mistaking it for food, this can lead to internal blockages, dehydration, starvation, and potentially death.

Also concerning are the potential human health impacts of toxic chemicals entering the marine food chain through plastics. Even more concerning is that plastics absorb toxic chemicals such as PCBs and DDTs. 

About The 5 Gyres Institute

The 5 Gyres Institute works to research, educate, and stop plastic pollution at its source. 5 Gyres is leading the charge to better understand the scope of plastic distribution in our world's watersheds, going farther, faster and first to unstudied regions of the world to create the first global estimate of plastic in our shared waters. 5 Gyres organizes action campaigns in the fight against plastic pollution. 

About NY/NJ Baykeeper

NY/NJ Baykeeper is a non-profit environmental organization whose mission is to protect, preserve and restore the Hudson-Raritan Estuary and greater New York Bay. Baykeeper is well known for its oyster restoration, land preservation and environmental advocacy in northern New Jersey and southern New York. To learn more, click here
About Clean Ocean Action

Clean Ocean Action is a leading national and regional voice working to protect waterways using science, law, research, education, and citizen action. Using a broad-based coalition of over 125 organizations, Clean Ocean Action works to improve the degraded water quality of the marine waters off the New Jersey/New York coast.