- Albany County Introduces Microbeads Ban

For Immediate Release: September 14, 2015

Albany County Introduces Microbeads Ban

Local Law Proposed by Albany County Legislators to Ban Disastrous Plastic Beads

Albany – Microbeads – the tiny plastic pellets that come by the tens of thousands in bottles of face wash, toothpaste, and more – are on their way to being banned in Albany County. Legislation sponsored by County Legislator Bryan Clenahan (D-Guilderland), County Legislator Chris Higgins (D-Albany), and others is set to be introduced to the committee agenda at tonight’s meeting of the Legislature.

A similar ban was just signed into law in Erie County, while other municipalities like the Town of Wilson, Cattaraugus County, and Chautauqua County are moving such measures forward. The ban will take effect six months after being signed into law.

A microbead ban is particularly important to the Capital Region, as this needless waste is designed to wash down the drain, where it accumulates and wreaks havoc on the local wastewater infrastructure, passes through wastewater treatment plants, and makes its way into local waterbodies such as the Hudson River. Wildlife mistake microbeads for food, thus entering them into the food chain. Along this process, microbeads attract and absorb persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs, which are a public health threat and rampant in the Hudson River.

According to a report from the Office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, 19 tons of microbeads may be washing into New York’s wastewater annually.

County Legislator Clenahan said, “Microbeads don’t biodegrade, so the problem accumulates and if we don’t ban them now, this will become very costly for taxpayers down the road. That’s unacceptable. Microbeads are unnecessary waste, and I am proud to partner with my colleagues to advance this legislation and continue Albany County’s leadership on environmental and public health issues.”

County Legislator Chris Higgins said, “I am excited to co-sponsor this local law which when enacted will play a critical role in protecting our environment and in particular, our water supply from these unnecessary microbeads.”

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who introduced the Microbead-Free Waters Act on the state level said, “I applaud the members of the Albany County Legislature seeking to ban the use of microbeads in personal care products sold in the county. As my office and our broad coalition of legislators, advocates, and citizens continue to fight for a statewide ban on microbeads, it is important that local leaders take up this cause to protect our waters and our wildlife. A recent study by my office found that these tiny, plastic beads are passing through wastewater treatment plants and contaminating waters across the state.”

Saima Anjam, environmental health director at Environmental Advocates of New York said, “Microbeads are a pointless plastic waste that compromise our wastewater system, pollute our waterways, harm wildlife, and ultimately become a public health concern. New York needs a statewide ban, but since state Senate leadership failed to allow a bill to the floor for a vote it is critical local leaders do what’s necessary. We applaud Legislators Clenahan, Higgins, and others who have taken the lead on an issue with enormous consequences for the Capital Region and beyond.”

Brian Smith, associate executive director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, “Tiny plastic microbeads are adding up to a huge problem for the Hudson River and other waters throughout the state. Absent action by the state legislature, counties across the state are now stepping up to protect our waters from plastic pollution. CCE commends Legislator Clenahan for his leadership to not only protect our local waters, but also to drive the state to protect all our waters.”

Caitlin Pixley, conservation associate with the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said, “The impact that plastic microbeads are having upon our environment is significant and concerning. Microbeads are washed down drains after use and end up in water treatment facilities that cannot filter them out. These plastic particles are then released into our waterways. The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter applauds County Legislators Clenahan and Chris Higgins for taking action on this issue and we look forward to working with them to make this bill law."    

Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper said, “The threat of microbeads in New York State's fresh water resources must be taken seriously, whether it is the Great Lakes or inland waterways. The efforts to ban microbeads in Erie County and now Albany County demonstrate the sentiment of state residents who support the elimination of harmful and unnecessary plastic pollution from our drinking water supply and recreational waterways. Thank you to the leaders in Albany County, led by Legislator Bryan Clenahan, for recognizing this threat and for taking meaningful action.”

Earlier this year, the state Legislature was expected to pass the Microbead-Free Waters Act, program legislation first introduced by Attorney General Schneiderman in 2014. The Assembly passed the measure with overwhelming bipartisan support, 139-1. Passage also seemed assured in the Senate where 59 percent of all members cosponsored the bill. However, it died in the Environmental Conservation Committee, which has led local governments statewide to step up and take action.

These local actions have encouraged statewide retailers like Wegmans and Tops to announce plans to stop selling products with microbeads at all of their locations.

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Contacts:

Bryan Clenahan (County Legislature): 518-253-7057 bryan.clenahan@albanycounty.com

Chris Higgins (County Legislature): 518-635-3109 chiggins@gmail.com

Max Oppen (Environmental Advocates): 518-462-5526 x238 moppen@eany.org

Attorney General’s Press Office: 518-776-2427

Brian Smith (Citizens Campaign): 716-831-3206 bsmith@citizenscampaign.org

Jill Jedlicka (Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper): 716-852-7483 x21 jedlicka@bnriverkeeper.org