Plastic has been making its way into the waters of Erie County in the form of microbeads – tiny pollutants found in more than 100 personal care products. On Wednesday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz
signed a bill to ban the sale of products containing the beads.
Poloncarz was joined Wednesday by Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke, environmental advocates and state legal experts in a news conference on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.
Microbeads are used to add color or texture to a product and to remove grease or dead skin. They can be found in many facial scrubs, cleansers, moisturizers, body washes and toothpastes.
Poloncarz said a single product can contain more than 300,000 microbeads. The beads pass through water treatment plants and household drains, carrying chemicals that can harm fish, other aquatic life and drinking water.
The new law will go into effect six months after it is filed with the New York Secretary of State’s office.
Ban advocates note that some major companies are already implementing changes. Microbead products are being filtered out of companies such as Avon, Crest, Oral B and Target. Procter & Gamble, Crest’s parent company, plans to completely phase out the beads by March.
Meanwhile, Tops Markets has announced that it is removing these products in all 150 stores that are located in numerous regions outside the county.
“It’s really encouraging to see places like Tops Markets respond to this law and go beyond it, so this law will protect the waterways of Erie County,” Burke said.
Poloncarz said this is only the beginning and expressed hope that the county's action will inspire others to do the same.
“The work is not done,” Poloncarz said during the signing ceremony. “I call on our countywide brethren in New York State and across the Great Lakes region to enact similar legislation. If the federal and state governments will not act, we, the residents of the Great Lakes representing local governments, must act to protect our heritage and our future.”