On Tuesday, June 30th, the CT General Assembly passed a bill that bans microbeads throughout the state. Commonly found in toothpaste, face wash, and other cosmetics, these tiny pieces of plastic are too small to be adequately filtered from wastewater treatment plants. This allows them to freely flow into our waterways, where they affix to toxins such as PCB’s and pesticides. Microbeads with their adjunct pollutants are consumed by fish and eventually ingested by us as they climb the trophic levels and onto our plate. An estimated three tons of microplastics enter our waters each year, just in our state alone.
Connecticut’s bill is the first of its kind, where a mandated study conducted by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering will be required before corporations can propose substituting microbeads with biodegradable plastics. Little is known about how these “alternatives” naturally decompose. Typically, biodegradable plastics require UV light to break down. However, microplastics are well mixed within the water column and may not receive the necessary exposure to sunlight to properly degrade. Additionally, biodegradable or not, harmful chemicals can still adhere to their surface, resulting in the same negative consequences to our environment and human health.
The bill mandates that consumer products containing microbeads must be phased out by 2019. However, it is unclear whether plastics not labeled as microbeads, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, will fall under the same requirements as well.
Connecticut has also passed a bill that bans the use of pesticides on municipal playgrounds. These bans are essential to protecting our health and preserving the vitality of the environment. Hopefully these bills will serve as a model for the rest of the nation in our pursuit for safer, cleaner water.