Democratic Bill to Ban Production, Sale of Microbead Cosmetic Products in N.J. Gains Final Legislative Approval

Sponsors Cite Rising Environmental Concerns; NJ Joins Other States, including New York, in Introducing Legislation Aimed at Eliminating Microbeads from Personal Products

Legislation Assembly Democrats Patrick Diegnan, Paul Moriarty, Tim Eustace, Linda Stender, Marlene Caride and Shavonda Sumter sponsored to address the growing environmental concerns over beauty products containing microbeads was approved unanimously Monday by the Senate, giving it final legislative approval.

The measure, which previously passed both houses of the legislature, was amended to concur with the governor’s recommendations after a conditional veto.

The bill (A-3083) prohibits the production, manufacture and sale of all personal cosmetic products containing microbeads. The small plastic particles are added to soaps, face washes and toothpastes as artificial replacements for natural additives such as pumice and crushed almonds.

Microbeads are made of polyethylene, a plastic used to manufacture garbage containers, grocery bags, bulletproof vests and knee replacements. Scientists warn that microbeads, which are not biodegradable, are too small to be removed by the water treatment process and end up in lakes, rivers and oceans.

“I applaud the companies who have recognized the ill effects that polyethylene microspheres have on the environment and stand with us as we take steps to curb its use,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex), noting that some companies have begun to phase out the use of microbeads voluntarily. “By banning these products, we are preserving New Jersey’s environmental heritage and protecting marine life.”

The governor recommended a maximum fine of $500 per violation rather than the maximum penalty of $10,000 proposed in the original bill. Also, as per the governor’s recommendation, only the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, not private parties, would be authorized to pursue penalties.

Legislation also has been introduced in several other states to address the environmental concerns caused by microbeads.

“New Jersey’s marine life and fishing industry need our protection now,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “There are plenty of other ecologically friendly ingredients that can replace microbeads without endangering our ecosystem.”

Water management facilities around the country are not capable of filtering small microbeads. These microbeads reportedly contain harmful toxins, flow through water treatment facilities and are directly deposited in our waterways. Microbeads in open water appear edible to fish, which then eat the toxin-covered plastic particles. These fish are then consumed by other fish or humans, resulting in microbeads covered with toxins entering the food chain.

“There are many suitable alternatives to the use of microbeads that are far better for the environment,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Prohibition against microplastics will save our waters, fishing industry and fragile ecosystem from enduring any further damage or potential harmful effects due to prolonged exposure.”

“Microplastics are more harmful to the environment than any other plastic due to their size,” said Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “Because of their size, microbeads are working their way into the food chain, which is a threat to our health and well being.”

The bill’s prohibition against the production or manufacture of personal cosmetic products containing microbeads would commence Jan. 1, 2018. The measure prohibits the sale, offer for sale, or promotion of these items on or after Jan. 1, 2019. For an over the counter drug containing synthetic plastic microbeads, no person will be able to sell, offer for sale, or offer for promotion these items in the state beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

“Microbeads in health and beauty aids can be replaced with nontoxic materials. Considering the damage microbeads pose to the environment, it is clear that they should be banned,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This legislation reinforces New Jersey’s commitment to protecting our environment.”

“There’s no cosmetic product worth causing irreparable damage to the environment and endangering the public’s health,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Banning microbeads is about putting the wellness of all New Jersey residents first.”

The bill, which also passed unanimously in the Assembly, now returns to the governor’s desk.