Schneiderman: New York has always been a leader in combating plastic pollution, protecting its families and environment
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has released a new report prepared by his environmental protection bureau detailing the dangers microbeads - tiny plastic beads that are included in many commercial cosmetic products - pose to New York's waterways. The report, titled "Unseen Threat: How Microbeads Harm New York Waters, Wildlife, Health And Environment," highlights the need to pass the attorney general's Microbead-Free Waters Act, proposed earlier this year. This bill would make New York the first in the nation to ban the sale of products containing microbeads.
The A.G. said New York waters are being polluted with microbeads: tiny plastic beads produced for use as abrasives in cosmetics and personal care products. Across the state, 19 tons of microbeads are washed down the drain each year and many end up in New York's waters, where they remain for decades, acting as sponges for toxic chemical pollutants. When consumed by fish and wildlife, microbeads allow pollutants to enter the food chain.
The report explains the scope of the problem and outlines potential solutions.
The attorney general was joined by Congressman Brian Higgins; Assembly members Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Mickey Kearns and Sean Ryan; Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz; Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown; Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster; Dr. Sherri Mason of SUNY Fredonia; and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka.
"New York has always been at the forefront of national progress when it comes to addressing the issue of plastic pollution," Schneiderman said. "We require plastic bag recycling in large stores. We banned harmful chemicals in baby bottles and pacifiers. We are expanding our bottle deposit law to include plastic water bottles. By passing the Microbead-Free Waters Act, we will show that New York remains a leader in protecting the health of our families and our environment."
"There is no greater gift we can give the next generation than protection of our waterways," said Higgins, a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force. "We see right here in Western New York what the water means, not just as an environmental resource, but as a tool for economic growth. From consumer and taxpayer issues to environmental protection, I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership on matters important to New Yorkers."
"I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for his quick action on this important issue," Poloncarz said. "The Microbead-Free Waters Act will prevent tons of non-biodegradable plastic from entering our water supply every year, polluting our greatest natural asset and poisoning our legacy. I am proud to stand with the attorney general in defending and protecting our environment and in calling for the passage of the Microbead-Free Waters Act."
"Lake Erie is one of Western New York's greatest resources for tourism, recreation, and for healthy drinking water," Brown said. "We need to make sure that microbeads, produced for use in personal care products, don't further pollute our waters, causing harm to our families and the environment. My administration is proud to join Attorney General Schneiderman, along with several leading beauty product manufacturers, in advocating for the passage of his Microbead-Free Waters Act to help improve the overall quality of our waters."
Dyster, a board member of The Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, said, "Once we became aware of this significant new pollution threat recently uncovered in the Great Lakes, The Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Cities Initiative took a strong stance that the flow of microbeads into our waters must stop. We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for spearheading this initiative, and we look forward to working alongside him to ensure that the future of the Great Lakes is microbead-free."
"With Buffalo on its way to becoming a world-class waterfront city, we cannot allow our future economic vibrancy to be held back by the threats posed by microbead pollution," said Kennedy said. "Protecting Lake Erie and our inland waterways like the Buffalo River and Niagara River will remain critically important components of our collective efforts to revitalize Buffalo and Western New York, and Attorney General Schneiderman's Microbead-Free Waters Act will help advance this vision for a protected environment and growing economy."
Ryan said, "The research has shown that microbeads pose a huge danger to our waterways, especially Lake Erie. I thank the attorney general for his efforts to ban microbeads, and I am pleased that the Assembly took action recently to protect our lakes, rivers and other vitally important waterways. The Microbead-Free Waters Act implements common-sense reforms and continues New York state's commitment to healthy waterways. It is my hope that we can see this bill signed into law by the end of our legislative session."
"The emerging threat of microbead pollution has the potential to undermine the billions of dollars of public and private investment into our water-based economies and negatively impact the progress of Great Lakes restoration," Jedlicka said. "The corporate responsibility already demonstrated by several leading companies supports the guiding principle of the legislation that safer alternative products to microbeads are readily available. We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for demonstrating New York state's proactive leadership on this issue in the Great Lakes, and congratulate the NYS Assembly for passing this important legislation that will directly benefit the health of our waterways."
"Beginning in 2012, we began sampling the Great Lakes to more thoroughly understand the scope of plastic pollution in freshwater systems," said Mason, associate professor of chemistry at SUNY Fredonia. "Our results confirmed that high concentrations of microbeads were collected in New York's water. I commend the attorney general for taking action and introducing the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which will help combat this serious problem."
Three leading beauty product manufacturers - Proctor and Gamble, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive - have all recently committed to phase out the use of microbeads in their products. Other companies, such as Burt's Bees, have never used these plastics in their products. Consumers can determine if their beauty or personal care products contain microbeads by checking the product ingredient list for "polyethylene" or "polypropylene."
The report indicates the most effective way to address this problem is at the source - the consumer products that contain microbeads, as wastewater treatment plants would require potentially costly upgrades to remove the microbeads from the wastewater stream, and there is no effective means for cleaning up the microbeads once they enter the waters. By prohibiting the sale of cosmetic or personal care products containing microbeads in New York, Schneiderman's first-in-the-nation Microbead-Free Waters Act will protect New York's fish and wildlife, and help protect and enhance its water resources.
The bill unanimously passed the Assembly May 5 and is currently being considered in the Senate.