Assemblymember Richard Bloom introduced legislation that begins confronting the most pervasive, but least talked about, type of plastic pollution: plastic microfibers. Plastic microfibers shed from synthetic fabrics during regular washing, and because these tiny plastic fibers are small enough to get past filters, they’re ending up in waterways and the ocean. AB 2379 requires that all clothing made primarily of polyester include a label that warns of plastic microfiber shedding and recommends handwashing the item in order to reduce the impact.
“This issue cannot wait,” said Bloom, author of the 2015 landmark California plastic microbead ban that was eventually applied nationally a year later through federal legislation signed by President Obama. “Plastic microfibers are making their way from washing machines into our seafood and even into the water we drink.”
According to research from University of California, Davis which sampled fish and shellfish sold at local California fish markets, a quarter of fish and a third of shellfish contained plastic debris, with the majority of the plastic debris being microfibers. In a survey that compared 150 tap water samples from locations in five continents, microscopic plastic fibers were found in nearly every sample, with 94% of the United States water samples containing plastic microfibers. This raises an important question about the human health consequences that plastic microfibers can have on people who unknowingly consume them.
“Manufacturers can’t continue to stick the public with the economic and health costs of cleaning up the products they produce, and consumers shouldn’t have to worry about eating or drinking plastic,” said Melissa Romero, Policy Associate at Californians Against Waste. “Handwashing is the best first step to reduce the amount of microfibers that make their way into our water until manufacturers find a way to prevent this problem.”
“We banned plastic microbeads because of the pollution they cause. Microfibers account for almost twenty times more pollution than microbeads, it’s a crisis. What’s at issue is that because of their size, microfibers are bioavailable to even the smallest creatures in the food chain and if they don’t survive, nothing will”, said Stiv Wilson, Campaigns Director for The Story of Stuff Project.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s 2014 report on the future of plastics estimated that the world’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) are coauthoring the bill.
“This bill will educate the public so that they can do their part in stemming this alarming environmental and public health discovery,” added Bloom.