In December 2015, President Obama signed a bipartisan bill that prohibits selling and distributing products containing microbeads. The bill will ban any solid plastic particle that is less than 5 millimeters and is used for exfoliating or cleansing purpose.
Major local supermarkets, such as Cole, Woolworths and Aldi, also plan to remove plastic microbeads from their personal care products. Other big manufacturers will also join the local supermarket chains to phase out the plastic particles from their Australia products.
On top of that, Australia’s state and federal environment ministers have also committed to a voluntary phase-out of plastic microbeads by July 2018.
Microbeads, about the size of a grain of sand, can be found in hundreds of products, ranging from body scrubs to toothpaste. These particles provide an exfoliating sensation for users and are designed to be washed down drains. However, being made of plastic, microbeads do not dissolve and may pose as a threat to the environment.
Scientists believe that once in the waterways, the plastic particles attract other pollutants such as pesticides and oils and end up in the food chain. Because of their size, it is believed that the toxins are retained in the gut in humans and are not easily excreted.