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Frank P.
Democrat NJ 6

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  • Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015

    by Representative Frank Pallone Jr.

    Posted on 2015-12-07

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    Read More about Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015

    PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 1321, the Microbead- Free Waters Act of 2015.

    This legislation sets up a strong Federal program to ban the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products. I would like to personally thank Chairman Fred Upton for working with me to introduce and move this important legislation.

    Plastic microbeads have been in use in cosmetic products, such as face washes and toothpaste, for many years. These tiny plastic beads are often used as exfoliants, removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. While these plastic particles are not harmful to the user of the product, in recent years, studies have shown that these tiny particles that are often washed down the drain are making it through the wastewater treatment process and ending up in our Nation's waterways. We must put a stop to this unnecessary and avoidable pollution.

    [[Page H9022]] Mr. Speaker, studies conducted in the Great Lakes, the world's largest source of freshwater, have turned up alarmingly high levels of microplastic. In addition to contributing to the buildup of plastic pollution in waterways, microbeads can often be mistaken by fish and other organisms as food. I have serious concerns about fish and other aquatic life potentially ingesting these particles and the effect this could have on humans who consume fish that have ingested the plastic.

    Numerous natural, biodegradable alternatives to plastic microbeads already exist in commerce and product supply chains, including apricot seeds, walnut shells, and pecan shell powder. Several personal care product companies have already announced plans to phase out the use of plastic microbeads in their products in favor of natural exfoliants.

    Beginning with Illinois in 2014, nine States have enacted some form of a ban on plastic microbeads in personal care products. Yet, in my opinion, we need a national solution. Our Nation's waterways do not always respect State boundaries. In order to put a stop to these plastic particles making their way into our oceans, lakes, and streams, we need to ban plastic microbeads in every State.

    The legislation before us today is the product of bipartisan input since it has moved through the committee process. Chairman Upton and I have worked to strengthen and clarify a number of provisions in the bill, most notably, by setting up an aggressive timetable for the phaseout of these products, which begins in 2017, earlier than any of the currently enacted State laws.

    The legislation exclusively bans the use of biodegradable plastic as an alternative ingredient, a loophole that has been discovered in a number of existing State laws. Many of the State laws contain a provision allowing companies to transition to biodegradable plastic as an alternative ingredient, and little is known about the ability of these biodegradable plastics to break down in a marine environment.

    The language we used to define the scope of this bill was carefully chosen. Plastic microbead is defined as any solid plastic particle that is less than 5 millimeters in size and is used to exfoliate or cleanse the human body. This definition limiting the scope to exfoliating products is also in all nine State-passed laws, and it focuses the prohibition on the products currently containing plastic microbeads that are being washed down the drain.

    The bill also includes preemption of State laws regulating plastic microbeads and cosmetics. While I am typically not a supporter of preempting State law, the strong Federal standard we have developed is more protective and implementation will occur sooner than in any State law in place.

    Mr. Speaker, limiting pollution in our Nation's waterways has always been one of my top priorities. It is an issue that helps further creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 after the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire. While much progress has been made, we must continue our efforts to protect America's waterways. And by banning plastic microbeads in personal care products, we are taking one more step towards a cleaner and healthier environment in America.

    I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation. Again, thank our Chairman Upton, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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