Wegmans is officially the first major U.S. retailer to remove all products containing plastic microbeads from its shelves ahead of an eventual federal ban. These products will include face washes, body scrubs, and toothpastes, to name a few. According to Wegmans, the banned products will only include national brands. None of the Wegmans brand personal care products contain microbeads.
These products will be completely off the shelves in Wegmans by mid-February. However, the rest of the U.S. could soon be following suit. The plastic microbeads pose a sustainability issue for personal care retailers. Many are already looking to develop more eco-friendly exfoliant alternatives.
Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015
According to a study by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the amount of plastic contained in the microbeads of a typical shower gel is equal to the amount of plastic contained in its packaging. When these beads are washed down the drain instead of recycled, they are very difficult to remove during water treatment processing. Instead, the microbeads end up in the ocean where they could take hundreds of years to degrade. For more information on this study, check out a previous blog post.
The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, signed last week by President Obama, bans the manufacture of rinse-off cosmetics containing plastic microbeads by July 1, 2017 and bans the delivery of these products by July 1, 2018. It will still be a year before major brands are required to stop using the microbeads, but maybe actions like the one taken by Wegmans will inspire change sooner.