- Albany County to Vote on Microbeads Ban

For Immediate Release: November 9, 2015

Albany County to Vote on Microbeads Ban

Growing Movement the result of inaction within the state Senate

Albany – The Albany County Legislature is expected to vote this evening on Local Law L to ban microbeads – small plastic pellets used in products like face wash and toothpaste. The vote sets the stage for Albany to become the 5th community in New York State to #BanTheBead since the beginning of summer.

Local efforts to ban microbeads have come about since the New York State Senate ended the legislative session in June failing to pass the Microbead-Free Waters Act. That legislation, an initiative of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, overwhelmingly passed the Assembly by a vote of 139-1, but the bill died in the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee despite being cosponsored by nearly 60 percent of all senators.

Because of their tiny nature, microbeads flow down our drains, pass through wastewater treatment plants, and enter waterways where they can absorb toxics such as PCBs and pesticides. Mistaken for food by wildlife, microbeads then move up the food chain.

Since July, 11 municipalities representing a majority of all New Yorkers have introduced or passed bans.

Albany County Legislator Bryan Clenahan (D-Guilderland) said, “Protecting our citizens’ health and our lakes, rivers, and waterways are among our most important responsibilities. This bill is common-sense legislation that will stop plastics from poorly designed personal care products from flowing into Albany County waterways. Local Law L is designed to protect our citizens from this harmful and completely unnecessary plastic waste.”

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “Today’s vote in Albany County is the latest in a growing movement of county governments affirming their commitment to protecting our state’s waters – and the fish, wildlife, and people who depend upon them – from the threat of plastic microbead pollution. I applaud the county governments that have acted to prohibit the sale of personal care products containing microbeads and look forward to continuing to work with a broad coalition of partners to remove these products from store shelves statewide.”

Saima Anjam, environmental health director at Environmental Advocates of New York said, “Microbeads are a needless waste that wreak havoc on our wastewater infrastructure, and hurt our waterways and wildlife. Republican and Democratic officials from urban, rural and suburban areas alike recognize the need to act because failing to do so will turn these tiny beads into major headaches down the road. We applaud officials from Albany County, in particular Legislator Bryan Clenahan, as well as Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Suffolk counties, who have already banned the bead!”

Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters said, “Literally billions of tiny plastic microbeads enter our waterways each day, threatening our aquatic ecosystems and public health. Since our wastewater treatment systems are not equipped to filter them out, the only solution is to make sure they don't end up there in the first place. I applaud County Legislator Clenahan and his colleagues for taking the lead locally and pushing to keep microbeads out of Albany County's waterways.”

John Calvelli, senior executive vice president for public affairs for the World Conservation Society said“Microbeads are a scourge to New York’s beautiful waterways, impacting everything from the Great Lakes to our ocean beaches. We have an opportunity to send a message that the status quo is unacceptable. Microplastics impact all of us, and all of the work done in preparation for this vote by Albany County is clearly a step in the right direction. If they could, I know our marine wildlife would say thank you.”

Patricia Cerro-Reehil, executive director for New York Water Environment Association said, “Microbeads are bioaccumulative and problematic not only for marine life but humans as well. We congratulate the Albany County Legislature for moving to protect public health by voting on this critical legislation, which will protect local communities not just in Albany, but up and down the Hudson River.”

William Cooke, director of government relations for Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, “The simple act of brushing our teeth or washing our hands is sending more than 600 pounds of plastic down the drain in Albany County every year, which is needlessly polluting the Hudson and other local waters. Albany County will be the fifth county to send a strong message to their counterparts in the state legislature – absent action on the state level, local governments will not wait to protect local waters from harmful plastic microbead pollution. This is a big problem with an easy solution – just ban microbeads. CCE commends Legislator Clenahan and Legislator Chris Higgins for their leadership to not only protect our local waters, but also to drive the state to protect all our waters.”

Kathy Curtis, executive director of Clean and Healthy New York said, “Hopefully action by Albany and other counties will slam the door on microbeads in personal care products once and for all. Legislator Bryan Clenahan is providing important leadership and showing the way for state, federal and market action to protect our precious environment from the scourge of microbeads.”

Cynthia Finley, director of regulatory affairs for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies said, “Microbeads are difficult to remove during typical wastewater treatment processes used by utilities. The microbeads therefore often pass through the treatment plant and into waterways of New York and the nation. Because plastic microbeads can be easily removed from products and replaced with natural alternatives, eliminating plastic microbead pollution at its source, rather than relying on wastewater utilities to remove microbeads, is the best way to protect the environment.” 

Russ Haven, legislative counsel for New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) said, “Albany County must act because some manufacturers are indifferent to the health and environmental injuries caused by their products – in this case the small plastic microbeads used to wash skin smooth. Microbeads harm our precious Hudson River and may contaminate the air when the plastic is captured in the county's sewage sludge, which is then burned. Leading means taking on powerful special interests to protect the environment.”

Kate Hudson, program director for Riverkeeper said, “Riverkeeper and many others have worked for decades to return the Hudson River to a fishable, swimmable, drinkable waterway. This goal is once again being put at risk by microbeads – a completely preventable plastic pollution that threatens wildlife and public health – that are inexplicably being put in our toothpaste and facial scrubs. We thank the Albany County Legislature for working to ban the sale of products containing microbeads, which cannot be cleaned up and will persist in our waterways for centuries if their flow into our precious New York waterways is not stopped. This legislation also sends an important message that local government can act when industry and the state legislature fail to protect our environment.”

Sandra Meola, communications and outreach associate for NY/NJ Baykeeper said,“We applaud Albany County for moving to stand against water-polluting plastic microbeads. We look forward to a strong phase-out of all plastics in personal care products. Industries must be encouraged to replace these harmful plastics with natural alternatives that have been used for centuries including sugar, walnuts and apricot seeds.”

Caitlin Pixley, conservation associate for Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said, “The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter strongly supports Local Law L which would ban the use of microbeads in cosmetic products sold in Albany County, thereby protecting our waterways from this persistent environmental hazard. We commend the Albany County Legislature, and especially the bill sponsor Legislator Bryan Clenahan, for addressing the unnecessary plastic pollution that threatens the Hudson River Estuary.”