What are plastic microbeads?
Plastic microbeads are a category of microplastics, which are generally very, very small—and are sometimes even difficult to see. Microbeads also are often wrongly confused with plastic pellets, which are the basic form of plastic raw materials used in manufacturing, and are generally in the shape of a cylinder or disk, and around 2-3 millimeters in size.
Microbeads in products
Microbeads are most commonly used in personal care products as cleansers and exfoliants. Microbeads have also been added to some facial scrubs and body washes because of the great scrubbing power they contribute. However, many personal care product companies are voluntarily phasing out the use of microbeads in their products or seeking out alternatives.
In 2014, Illinois became the first U.S. state to enact legislation banning the manufacture and sale of products containing microbeads. Later in 2015, the United States Congress passed the “Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015” into law, which phased out solid plastic microbeads used in rinse-off personal care products, ensuring a sensible national standard.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are microbeads banned?
Yes. The “Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015” phased out the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of solid plastic microbeads in rinse-off personal care products. 1
How do microbeads get into the ocean?
Most wastewater management systems aren’t able to filter or capture plastic microbeads. This can cause them to eventually end up in rivers, lakes, and oceans.
What are microbeads?
Microbeads, a category of microplastics, are manufactured solid plastic particles smaller than 5 mm in size.2 Microbeads typically serve as cleansers and exfoliants in personal care products, such as soaps, facial scrubs and toothpastes.
1U.S. Food & Drug Administration. "The Microbead-Free Waters Act." Aug. 2020, https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetics-laws-regulations/microbead-free-waters-act-faqs
2Driedger, et. Al. “Plastic Debris in the Laurentian Great Lakes: A Review.” Journal of Great Lakes Research, Elsevier, Mar. 2015, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0380133015000064.