Chicago, IL (June 29, 2018) – Celebrating the Fourth of July holiday is all about hitting the nearest Great Lakes beach for many people who live in the region. But, plastic pollution is all too often an unwanted part of holiday celebrations. One source of plastic pollution harming the lakes is on its way out as of July 1, which is the final deadline for a national ban on plastic microbeads in personal care products. Microbeads are tiny plastic particles used as an abrasive in many personal care products, like facial scrubs or body washes. The tiny plastic pieces have been found in all five Great Lakes, raising water quality concerns.

The movement to phase out plastic microbeads in personal care products began in the Great Lakes region. The Alliance for the Great Lakes, our partners, and tens of thousands of advocates across the region led the fight for legislation to phase out microbeads in personal care products. Illinois was the first state to ban the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products in 2014, leading the way for a national movement that resulted in the landmark federal legislation. The issue has also received international attention, as a similar microbead ban went into effect on the first of the year in Canada.

The U.S. federal ban on plastic microbeads in personal care products goes fully into effect on July 1. In late 2015, federal legislation banning the sale and manufacture of personal care products containing plastic microbeads was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. The legislation phased out personal care products with plastic microbeads over several years. The manufacture of these products was banned after July 1, 2017, and the sale banned as of July 1, 2018.

Because of their small size and buoyancy, microbeads escape treatment by sewage plants and end up in our rivers and lakes. Once in the water, microbeads can absorb toxic chemicals and be mistaken for food by wildlife.

While the microbead ban is big news for the Great Lakes, the region continues to face other plastic pollution problems. Fourth of July holiday celebrations often leave behind mounds of trash on beaches, much of it plastic, causing a big problem for the health of the Great Lakes. Researchers from the Rochester Institute of Technology estimate that about 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes every year. Plastic pollution never really goes away, instead it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Tiny plastic particles have been found in drinking water in Great Lakes cities and in bottled beverages such as beer.

Small changes make a big difference and everyone who cares about clean water can start by making smart choices to reduce plastic pollution. Today, the Alliance for the Great Lakes released nine tips for having a plastic-free Fourth of July. From choosing a reusable water bottle to helping with an Adopt-a-Beach cleanup, everyone around the Great Lakes can be part of the effort to keep plastic pollution out of the Great Lakes.

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For more information, contact Jennifer Caddick at jcaddick@greatlakes.org or (312) 445-9760.

For additional information about plastic pollution in the Great Lakes and how to help, visit:

Great Lakes Plastic Pollution: Fighting for plastic-free water

Tiny Plastic, Huge Victory

5 Ways Plastic Pollution is Different in the Great Lakes

7 Ways You Can Keep Plastic Out of the Great Lakes

Get Involved: Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach