Senator Saviello, Representative Welsh, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Sarah Lakeman and I am the Sustainable Maine Policy Advocate for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 85.
There is a strong case for phasing out the use of synthetic plastic microbeads in consumer products. Plastic microbeads are used in hundreds of personal care products such as exfoliating scrubs, soaps, toothpaste, and shaving creams. When people use these products, the plastic microbeads ultimately end up in our sewage treatment facilities, which are not designed to filter out tiny, non-biodegradable plastic particles. As a result, the tiny plastic beads pass through the treatment plants and pollute our rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters.
Microplastics have become ubiquitous in our marine ecosystems, and have reached concentrations that can outnumber plankton. Research shows that plastic particles can attract and absorb toxins, and then end up in the food chain when fish and wildlife ingest them. Natural, biodegradable, and equally effective alternatives to plastic microbeads exist, including sand, salt, and nutshells.
As a result of the increased attention to environmental and health impacts associated with plastic microbeads, many manufacturers have begun to voluntarily phase them out of their products. However, without legal restrictions preventing the use or sale of products containing plastic microbeads, some companies likely will continue to use these harmful and unnecessary ingredients.
Both New York and Illinois have recently passed legislation to phase out the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products. Maine has the opportunity to do so this year by adopting LD 85. Vermont, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Indiana and other states also are considering similar bills.
NRCM supports LD 85 because it will help protect clean water in Maine by requiring manufacturers and retailers to adhere to a scheduled phase-out of the sale of products that contain unnecessary, harmful synthetic plastic microbeads. Thank you for your consideration of these comments. I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.