Polyethylene Microbeads in Canada

Microbeads are tiny spheres used for their ball-bearing effect which causes silky texture and easily spreadable.  They are utilized for their exfoliating and abrasive qualities. In the cosmetic and personal care product industry, these microbeads are important components of toothpastes, shampoos, exfoliating scrubs and many other products. Recently, these microbeads have been under much criticism as they have been found to accumulate in the great lakes and St. Lawrence River.

On Tuesday, March 24, 2015, Canada’s federal New Democratic Party successfully passed a motion to ban microbeads from personal care products in Canada. The Canadian government position is that Environment Canada is currently studying the environmental dangers posed by the plastic microbeads. The findings of the study will determine a federal-provincial action plan on microbeads. In the U.S., some states have already introduced legislation to ban microbeads, and have launched phasing out programs. In June 2014, Illinois’s placed a ban on microbeads that will take effect by 2019.  They became the first jurisdiction in the world to pass this law. New Jersey and Wisconsin recently placed certain banns on the manufacture or sale of microbeads in cosmetic products.  Colorado is finalizing its approval to pass its ban on microbeads.  A federal level U.S. ban of microbeads was recently introduced called the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which calls for the complete nationwide ban of the distribution and sale of microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products by 2018.

Within the cosmetic industry, big corporations have already begun phasing out microbeads ahead of legislative bans. Unilever has already removed polyethylene from products in January. Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal, and Procter & Gamble are currently in the midst of their phase-out programs.  The body shop announced that plastic beads would not be present in any of their products by the end of the year.

If you have any questions or concerns, or need help on how to deal with polyethylene within your formulations, please feel free to contact FPR for additional information or consultation.