California Passes Microbeads Ban – But It May Become Preempted
On October 8, 2015, California Jerry Brown signed AB 888 into law, which bans plastic microbeads in personal care products (including toothpaste) at or above 1 parts per million by weight. The law goes into effect in 2020. Enforcement is by civil lawsuits brought by the California Attorney General and other public authorities. Violators are subject to civil penalties of up to $2,500 per day; a court also may order injunctive relief.
California’s microbeads ban is not the first in the nation, but is the only one that would cover biodegradable plastics within its prohibition. An industry coalition opposed the bill, arguing that the law stifles innovation and creates confusing ambiguities about whether naturally derived and nature identical alternatives are prohibited.
In the meantime, on November 18, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved H.R. 1321, a federal bill that would ban the sale or distribution of rinse-off cosmetic products that contain plastic microbeads. Under a proposed amendment of this bill, state microbeads-cosmetics laws would be preempted.