LANSING – On Tuesday, first-term state Representative Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) presented her inaugural bill to the enrolling clerk’s office of the Michigan Legislature. House Bill 4287 will require the phasing out of the manufacture and sale of personal care products containing plastic particles – known as “microbeads.”

Today, a significant number of personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes are known to contain thousands of minuscule balls of plastic called microplastics, or microbeads. Over the years, microbeads have replaced traditional, biodegradable alternatives such as ground nut shells and salt crystals.

A scientific study conducted across 21 open water locations in the Great Lakes showed an abundance of microbeads in the water system. As municipal wastewater treatment systems are unable to filter out the tiny particles, they end up in lakes, rivers, streams and ultimately the Great Lakes and seaways. 

“I am very proud of the bipartisan support that my first bill has received from my colleagues, as we are uniquely charged in Michigan as the stewards of the world’s largest freshwater system,” Greig said.

The study shows how microbeads threaten the environment and the economy of Michigan, as aquatic animals are absorbing the microbeads into their gills and digestive systems. The Great Lakes Fisheries Commission has passed a resolution calling for legislative action from Great Lakes states, and Illinois has already passed similar legislation. Similar measures have been passed in Illinois and are being reviewed by other Great Lakes states, including Wisconsin and Indiana.

Conservation and outdoor sportsmen’s organizations have also called for legislative action to end the use of microbeads. 

“I am looking forward to the bill receiving a hearing,” said Dennis Eade, Executive Director of the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association. “Our members are concerned that microbeads can serve as a pathway for dangerous pollutants to enter the food web and contaminate fish in our lakes, rivers and streams. I believe that the testimony my members can share will reinforce the need for this legislation.”

Most major U.S. companies have already committed to removing microbeads from products such as toothpastes and exfoliating facial and body washes. Unilever, The Body Shop and Johnson & Johnson agreed to removing microbeads from their scrubs and body washes by the end of 2015. Procter & Gamble has also committed to ending this practice by 2017. Despite these commitments, the combined market share of these companies still comprises less than 25 percent of the total market using microbeads. 

“We applaud the outstanding stewardship shown by our business leaders, and believe that this legislation will ensure that the remaining companies, often offshore, share in the responsibility,” Greig said.