Microbeads are doing bad things to our world, friends.

They are tiny little pieces of plastic that companies have been adding to soap, toothpaste, and all kinds of products to give them a texture (think "exfoliating body wash") as well as take up space, requiring less actual product in the same size container.



GIF from The Story of Stuff.

But there was a huge problem: Wastewater treatment facilities usually can't filter microbeads out of the water supply. They are ending up in rivers and lakes, where the tiny plastic particles accumulate and wreak havoc. They are even being found in fish. And one container of face wash can have up to 350,000 microbeads.

Microbeads add up over time, and they aren't biodegradable. Image by Oregon State University/Flickr.

They might be tiny, but collectively, they can have a huge, negative impact on the environment.

John Calvelli, an executive vice president of public affairs at the Wildlife Conservation Society, puts it into perspective.

"In New York State alone, 19 tons of microbeads are washed down the drain every year. They collect pollutants such as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and then become part of the food chain when fish mistake them for food," he said.

In fact, they are so clearly detrimental and unnecessary that members of both political parties in Congress co-sponsored The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 to ban them, and it easily passed in both the House and the Senate in December 2015. It's set to be signed by President Obama in the coming weeks, and it's a hopeful indicator that there are still things that the government can work on together without polarization.

So pretty soon, your personal products may be a bit different.

Your face wash, your body scrub, your dish soap ... assuming the new law is signed and goes into effect for manufacturers in July 2017, we'll be finding new formulations after that when we pick up our trusty standbys at the store.

That could mean no more sparkly little green things in your toothpaste or at least a different type of sparkly little green thing.


GIF from "Arrested Development."

But don't fret, aficionados of squeaky-clean, exfoliating goodness. There will still be natural solutions for your favorite products to turn to, using organic matter like seeds and coffee to slough off the day.

Now you'll be able to feel better about your products as they swirl down the drain and carry some hope in your heart because our Congress proved they can still work together. That's worth getting in a lather about!

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