Senate unanimously passes federal ban on microbeads; bill heads to Obama’s desk

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WIVB) — Local lawmakers helped lead the way for what could become a major environmental victory if President Barack Obama signs a recently passed bill into law.

The U.S. Senate on Friday passed unanimously the Microbeads-Free Waters Act of 2015, following the lead of the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed the bill on Dec. 7, just over a week earlier.

The bill, if signed into law by President Obama, will follow suit with laws already passed in a number of counties across the country, including Erie County, banning the sale of products with plastic microbeads as an ingredient.

According to studies, the plastic beads easily pass through sewage treatment plants and pollute waterways, including the Great Lakes. Congressman Brian Higgins called the ban a natural progression after local lawmakers took a stand against the plastic beads.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said the fear in the Senate was the potential damage to ecology, but also to tourism and fishing industries.

“By removing products containing plastic microbeads from the marketplace, we can now begin to focus on cleaning up the mess they caused,” Gillibrand said.

In a press conference on Friday, President Obama thanked congress for its bipartisan acts, citing the bipartisan budget, but also bills like the Microbeads act. Gillibrand said she looks forward to his signing of the bill.

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