- Microbead Ban’s Clear Path to Senate Passage

For Immediate Release: June 8, 2015

Microbead Ban’s Clear Path to Senate Passage

Common-Sense Bill Stalled In Environment Committee Despite Sponsorship by Chair and 59% of All State Senators

Albany – Companies are placing unnecessary tiny plastic beads into body wash, soaps and toothpastes, which then go down the drain, escape through wastewater treatment facilities unequipped to handle them, only to make their way into New York’s waterways where they wreak havoc on wildlife and the food chain.

With just days left in the 2015 Legislative Session, common-sense legislation to ban these beads deserves a fair up or down vote; the lead sponsor of the legislation chairs the Senate committee in which it’s stalled. To date, 37 of 63 Senators have signed on to cosponsor the bill. Just 32 votes are needed for Senate passage.

The bill overwhelmingly passed the Assembly earlier this year by a vote of 139-1, with all Democrats and all but one Republican supporting the measure. However, despite similarly widespread, bipartisan support in the Senate, lead sponsor Tom O’Mara has attempted to advance a competing bogus beads bill supported by the industry, which is not cosponsored by a single colleague. That bill was expected to receive a floor vote in late May until senators threatened to attach the widely supported bill as a hostile amendment during debate.

The Microbead-Free Waters Act is one of just five bills identified by Environmental Advocates of New York – three of which are environmental and public health priorities – as having more cosponsors listed than votes needed for passage. The other two include:​ ​

In addition to broad majority support Senate-wide, the bill is sponsored by nine members of the 13-member Environmental Conservation committee, 11 members of the 15-member Codes committee, 22 members of the 36-member Finance committee, and 12 members of the 24-member Rules committee. Alternatively, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan can pull the bill out of any committee and bring to the floor for a full vote via the Rules committee, which he chairs.

Saima Anjam, environmental health director at Environmental Advocates of New York said, “The Microbead-Free Waters Act has a clear pathway to passage. If it’s not brought up for a vote, it means that industry has once again silenced the majority of New York’s state senators. It’s been just weeks since Senator Skelos resigned amidst allegations of using the legislative process to enrich his family. New Yorkers expect more from new leadership. This should not be excused as ‘the Senate being the Senate’ like the once august body is a temperamental teen. Senators Flanagan and O’Mara need to allow a simple up or down vote on bills supported by a majority of members.”

Dr. Sherri Mason, environmental sciences program coordinator at the State University of New York at Fredonia said, “I have not spoken to one person in my hundreds of public presentations reaching thousands of people who, after learning there is plastic in their consumer products, is okay with it. The people want these plastics removed and the point of the legislature is to respond to the desire of the people. And our representatives are responding to that by signing-on to the bill, but it needs to be called for a vote. We all get crunched for time, but this bill is an easy one. With so many co-signers it won't require a lengthy debate. Just call it for a vote and move-on, and let the bill move on too. I was so proud when New York was the first state in the nation to call for a ban on these unnecessary pollutants, but now several other states have already passed the legislation that is stalled here. People expect more and the health of all people deserves more.”

Cynthia Finley, director of regulatory affairs for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies said, “Microbeads cannot be removed through the wastewater treatment processes typically used by utilities, and therefore pass through treatment plants into the waters of New York and the nation. Since plastic microbeads can be easily removed from consumer 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 water and environment. The Microbead-Free Waters Act is a great step in the right direction.”

Blake Kopcho, campaign manager for The 5 Gyres Institute said, “Our research estimates more than five trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans, over 90 percent of which are microplastics. In order to address this global plastic crisis, we need to swiftly enact solutions that reduce plastic pollution at the source, before it reaches our waterways or oceans. The Microbead-Free Waters Act is a common sense policy that will accomplish specifically that.”

Brian Smith, associate executive director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, “Plastic microbeads may be tiny, but they are adding up to be a huge problem for our waters across the state. Senator Flanagan now has the weight of 19 tons of plastic on his shoulders. He must choose between protecting Long Island Sound or maintaining the status quo.” 

Karen Papasergiou, president of the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor said, “We expect our legislators to protect all New York State waterways, and the health and safety of all residents. The Assembly has overwhelmingly voted to ban microbeads and protect New York’s environment and residents. Why can’t the Senate get the job done as well and prevent further plastic and toxic pollution from entering New York’s waters?”

Lee Willbanks, executive director of Save The River said, “The St. Lawrence River has some of the highest concentrations of microbead pollution of any of New York’s waterways. Save The River supports the Microbead-Free Waters Act as the most effective way to remove this bio-accumulating threat to the health of the river and the species and communities that depend on it. Its quick passage into law will set the example for other Great Lakes states to follow.”

Roger Downs, conservation director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said, “Plastic microbead pollution is insidious – it doesn’t degrade like natural materials and persists for decades, if not centuries in our environment. Perhaps more insidious is the fact that we have a strong legislative solution to the problem, with majority cosponsorship, that can’t get a Senate floor vote because of industry pressure and money. This common sense bill will be a big test for Majority Leader Flannigan’s leadership – will he act in the public interest or continue Albany’s pay to play culture?”



Travis Proulx (Environmental Advocates of New York): 518-462-5526 x238

Brian Smith (Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment): 716-831-3206

Carol DiPaolo (Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor): 516-801-6792

Roger Downs (Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter): 518-426-9144

Cynthia Finley (National Association of Clean Water Agencies): 202-533-1836

Blake Kopcho (The 5 Gyres Institute): 805-708-3435

Dr. Sherri Mason (SUNY Fredonia): 716-673-3292

Lee Willbanks (Save The River): 315-686-2010