Microbeads: More than Just a Facial Scrub

Update: On October 8, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 888, which bans the sale of personal care products containing plastic microbeads. Microbead bans passed in other states have included loopholes which allowed companies to continue to use plastic particles in personal care products, so long as those plastics were deemed biodegradable. California's law now becomes the strongest microbead ban in the nation.

It's a new kind of plastic that is too small to recycle and too tiny to filter out of our waste water. They are called microbeads. Thousands of them are put into skin cleansers, exfoliates and even toothpaste. They end up in our oceans, consumed by fish and coral and adding to the huge gyres of plastic that are floating in our oceans. Reporter Derrick Shore meets two Culver City environmentalists who are on a crusade to raise public awareness of microbead pollution, and persuade manufacturers to stop using them.

Additional Links:

REDEFINE: 6 Reasons That Floating Ocean Plastic Cleanup Gizmo is a Horrible Idea

Featuring Interviews With:

  • Anna Cummins, executive director and co-founder, 5 Gyres Institute
  • Marcus Eriksen, Ph.D., director of research and co-founder, 5 Gyres
  • Keith Christman, American Chemistry Council
  • Mark Gold, director, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

For the Record: This story has been updated to reflect the American Chemistry Council's position that microbeads cannot be recycled and there is not currently any type of microbead that is biodegradable. An earlier version of this story did not make that clear.

Get the free PBS App

Full Episodes

Upcoming Airdates

People vs. Kiera Newsome

One woman strives to prove her innocence from behind bars, while a team of pro-bono lawyers and students fight the odds to get her out.

  • 2020-12-02T21:00:00-08:00

Cannabis Country

State and local regulators are overwhelmed and outgunned when it comes to closing down California’s poisonous pot pipeline.

  • 2020-12-09T21:00:00-08:00

Fire Station 9

Take a rare behind-the-scenes look inside the busiest fire station in the country, where firefighters act as both primary care providers and emergency responders for the nearly 5,000 people living on Skid Row.

  • 2020-12-16T21:00:00-08:00

Access Denied

An investigation reveals how the state and many cities have let developers get away for decades with not paying their fair share when they replace affordable lodging with luxury hotels up and down California’s coast.

  • 2020-12-23T21:00:00-08:00

The Fight to Know

In the beginning of 2019, California, one of the nation’s most secretive states when it comes to police files, put Senate Bill 1421 into effect. The new law made public thousands of police records pertaining to police dishonesty, sexual assault and use of force. And in an unprecedented move, forty news groups partner to dig into these once-secret police files. But even after a year into the new transparency law, journalists and the public are realizing that the law has its limits when it comes to investigating police misconduct.

  • 2020-12-30T21:00:00-08:00