Bye-Bye Microbeads

By:  Sen. Chris Murphy
The Orange Times

Every single day, millions of tiny plastic beads flow into the Long Island Sound. The origin? Our toothpaste and face wash. But that’s about to change.

Our daily personal care routine is causing millions of plastic beads—called microbeads—to wreak havoc on our environment. Too small to be caught by filters at water treatment plants, the beads flow into our rivers and streams, and eventually, Long Island Sound. Even worse, the plastic easily absorbs
chemicals and toxins that inevitably poison wildlife and taint our food and water.

This phenomenon isn’t new. I started working on this issue at the urging of local activists, like the late tate Rep. Terry Backer, who were some of the first to take to heart new scientific research from universities like Southern Connecticut State University on the harm of microbeads. When I learned that eight million tiny plastic beads— enough to cover eight football fields—pour into our water each and every day, it became clear that we needed to act. That’s why I co-sponsored a bill with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York to ban products with microbeads across the country.

Connecticut was one of the first to pass a ban on microbeads at the state level, and our protections helped spur private companies to act. Faced with the reality of multiple state bans and vocal advocacy from socially conscious customers, companies like Unilever and Johnson & Johnson started to
look at their bottom lines and began to phase out microbeads.

But relying on piecemeal state protections and company policies was not enough. Flowing water doesn’t stop at state borders, and pollutants filling the air or water don’t stay confined to the cities or states that refuse to pass reasonable rules.

To effectively solve the growing microbeads problem and set predictability for businesses, we needed to pass a federal bill. Unfortunately, it was a noble goal that faced many hurdles. The Republican led
Congress made its resistance to new regulations clear – and the toxic political atmosphere currently plaguing Washington sure didn’t seem to help our chances.

Still, I was determined to get this done after listening to the concerns of people in Connecticut who depend on a healthy Long Island Sound for their livelihood and quality of life. Following the momentum
of Connecticut’s leadership and the support of forward-looking companies, a bipartisan coalition from the coasts and the Great Lakes region succeeded in passing the Microbead Free Waters Act, which would completely phase out the use of microbeads, through Congress, and the bill was signed into law.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress came together to pass a law that will make a big difference in protecting the Sound and protecting Connecticut’s food and water. I was proud to be a part of this effort, and I will continue working hard to protect the Sound and make sure our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy it as much as we do.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) represents the State of Connecticut in the United States Senate.