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As Bans On Microbeads Grow, Environmentalists Urge Less Use Of Plastics

CHICAGO (WBBM Newsradio) -- Elected officials and activists are celebrating new regulations going into effect to protect the Great Lakes, and they're vowing to do more as the White House and Congress look to erode such protections.

They gathered today at the Shedd Aquarium, as a federal ban on the manufacturing and sales of microbeads in personal care products goes into effect.

Illinois was the first state in the U.S. to enact a microbead ban in 2014.

Canada also has moved to ban plastic microbeads in cosmetics, toiletries, and other personal care products by July.

Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic found in many health and beauty products, and are generally used to exfoliate skin or polish teeth. However, environmentalists say they are also a harmful source of pollution, as not all water treatment plants can filter them out.

Shedd Aquarium senior policy director Andrea Densham urged everyone to resolve to use less plastic in 2018, especially single-use products like straws and bags.

Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, said plastic pollution in the Great Lakes and oceans is a crisis.

Walling said she believes Illinois was the first state to enact a ban, because people of all political stripes love Lake Michigan.

"When it comes to policy, there's not a lot that Illinois does first. So this was a really big deal," she said.

Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said volunteers last year picked up 40,000 pounds of debris on Great Lakes beaches; about 90 percent of it plastic.

"Plastics don't belong in our fresh water," he said.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Mike Quigley, both Illinois Democrats, said this Congress is the worst in history when it comes to protecting the environment, and President Trump is the worst president on the issue.

Quigley and Schakowsky vowed to keep up the fight for the environment.

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