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Natural is in, artificial is out

Microbeads, like these in a powdered eyeshadow, would

Microbeads, like these in a powdered eyeshadow, would be banned under a measure drafted by the state attorney general to halt the spread of plastic pollution in New York waters. Credit: iStock

Earth Day turns 45 on April 22. Social media is barely a teenager. But the forces behind each are coming together to provoke change.

In New York, the State Assembly is set to vote today on a bill to ban microbeads from personal care products. Social media campaigns already have led numerous corporations to say they will remove the tiny plastic pellets from product lines.

Microbeads are plastic bits used as exfoliants in products ranging from face scrubs to toothpaste, and replaced such natural abrasives as crushed almonds and pumice. One tube of facial cleanser can have as many as 360,000 microbeads. Once they wash down our drains, they’re not filtered or broken down by treatment plants and end up in rivers and oceans. Then they absorb toxins, are eaten by fish and other aquatic life and enter the food chain. A study by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found 1.3 tons of microbeads are discharged yearly in Nassau County. Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are inundated.

A Schneiderman bill to ban microbeads in personal care products is likely to pass the Assembly, as it did last year before dying in the Senate. The Senate has a weaker version that affects fewer products. The Senate needs to get with the times and adopt the Assembly bill.

New Jersey has banned microbeads. So has Illinois. Connecticut and other states have legislation. Pushed by social media, companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Avon, and Procter & Gamble, have pledged to get rid of microbeads in some or all products. But the pledges are voluntary. Legislation is needed to make sure it happens.

Long Island’s Senate delegation needs to remember: This is about our waters and the fish we eat. The momentum is all in one direction on this. Sitting still — again — is not an option.