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How will U.S. Ban on Microbeads Affect CPG Manufacturing

Written by Robert Brice
January 28, 2016

Companies can no longer put microbeads in soaps.

Companies can no longer put microbeads in soaps.

Introducing a new product into supply chain logistics management will require certain risks. Consumers may not take to certain merchandise or old solutions for inventory management and shipping may not work with certain items that need specialized handling. In some scenarios, problems could come around that bring distribution to a complete standstill, especially when dealing with new products.

On December 28, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 was signed into law, according to Consumerist. In the near future, U.S. manufacturers will no longer be allowed to use tiny plastic materials called microbeads in health, hygiene and beauty products. This means that companies that produce and sell merchandise containing microbeads will need to find ways to halt distribution in the most cost-efficient way possible.

The Problem With Microbeads

The Microbead-Free Waters Act was proposed and passed for environmental reasons. The Smithsonian magazine detailed how the use of microbeads in commercial products led to contamination of local water supplies.

Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic included in soaps, toothpaste and makeup for the purpose of exfoliating and abrasion. The problem is consumers wash the materials down their sink and shower drains during use. The plastic doesn’t degrade, instead, it floats around municipal water supplies where the beads absorb pollutants and concentrate contaminants. Environmentalists also worry about marine life confusing the plastic particles for food, eating the materials and ending up in food supplies.

Due to the materials’ extremely small size, they tend to get past water filtration systems. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the danger posed by microbeads isn’t great yet but could build if something isn’t done.

Many consumer groups are in favor of the ban. The Rockland Journal News said people fear the possibility of consuming beads after they’ve been digested by fish or absorbed contaminants.

White House Officially Bans the Product

The call for a ban on microbeads was so popular it gained bipartisan approval, according to The New York Times. The bill moved quickly through the House and Senate and was immediately signed into law by President Barack Obama once it reached his desk. Before the national legislation went into effect, certain states passed local bands. Illinois was the first in an attempt to keep microbeads out of the great lakes.

Companies have a small grace period to alter operations. In 2017, the national ban on microbead manufacturing will begin. After that, the legislation will start for the sale and production of certain products in 2018 and 2019. Over the next couple of years, manufacturers and retailers will have to phase microbeads out of their routines.

Looking for an Alternative

Many companies are ready for the ban. In fact, major brands like Proctor & Gamble report they will have no trouble removing microbeads from offerings by the 2017 deadline. The Personal Care Products Council was in support of the House of Representatives’ decision and worked in conjunction with lawmakers to define the language and create schedules for the ban.

During the early stages of microbead complaints, some businesses proposed alternative materials in microbead manufacturing. Certain companies believed they could create a degradable option that would break down in water instead of contaminating local supplies. While earlier bans made allowances for degradable plastic microbead options, the Microbead-Free Waters Act does not. Businesses that were working on new products will have to scrap plans and begin phasing out the products altogether.

Altering Production and Distribution

The microbead ban highlights the need for flexible business solutions. Hopefully, microbead product manufacturers have automated data collection solutions in place to study historical activities and create projections to phase out practices and materials.

By working with hard data, companies can see where they can allocate assets once used for microbead production and determine the value of equipment that must be sold off. Businesses can also study the success of their other ventures to see where they can allocate current capital and time that won’t go towards banned merchandise.

Anytime a major shift needs to take place, information visible thanks to automated data collection technology allows business leaders to make informed decisions and mitigate loss. Obstacles will always rear their head, but even when the worst happens, having accurate data is always better than being in the dark.