United States: Obama signs plastic microbead ban

© Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

In December, US President Barack Obama signed a new law that will ban plastic microbeads from many cosmetic products and over-the-counter drugs, and aims to remove plastic pollution in water supplies. Microbeads are defined as solid plastics less than 5 milimetres in diametre that are used as abrasives or exfoliants in products like face and body scrubs, toothpastes and shampoos. The beads are typically washed down the drain, of which many wastewater treatment plants are unable to filter, leading to the beads ending up in oceans, lakes, and rivers, where the toxins can be absorbed or even mistaken as food by wildlife.