BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Erie County's microbead ban officially went into effect in February, but are stores still selling products containing the small plastic beads? The answer is probably.
"I'm hoping that retailers are unaware of it," County Executive Mark Poloncarz, D-Erie County, said. "If they're aware of it, then they're violating the law."
We checked the shelves at four separate stores in Buffalo. In at least three, it appears microbeads are still on the shelf.
"We were worried about smaller stores, truthfully," Poloncarz said. "We thought most of the larger stores were going to remove their products and they guaranteed to us they were."
At Target, we found Clean and Clear Morning Burst facial cleanser, a product that Erie County's own website claims contains the beads. Target said it requires its vendors to comply with regulatory standards and directed any further questions to the vendors.
"If we do find out that there's a location that's selling a product that has microbeads, we will force them to take them off the shelves and if they don't then we can fine them," Poloncarz said.
Meanwhile, both Dollar General and Walgreens sell Caress body wash products listed on the international campaign against microbeads website as products that still contained them as of this February. Caress's parent company Unilever previously promised to phase out microbeads by 2015.
Contradictions like these make it hard for stores to tell if products actually violate the ban.
"We partner with a number of organizations including some local environmental organizations who have identified products that include microbeads, so even Erie County itself is not aware of every product that's made in the universe, so to speak, to include microbeads," Poloncarz said.
He said over time the confusion should take care of itself. Federal law prohibits the products from being manufactured after July 2017.
But legislature chairman John Mills, R, who felt Erie County's law should've been repealed when the federal law was passed, says that's not good enough.
“I am disappointed in the County Executive’s response to the law local not being complied with. He assured the Legislature that the Division of Weights and Measures would enforce this law now. The County Executive went as far as to say that repealing our local law in favor of the federal law was akin to intentionally polluting our waterways. Not enforcing the ban immediately is hypocritical and a disservice to the public and environment,” Mills said in a statement.
"We have a limited staff in the Department of Weights and Measures so they can't get to every store immediately so that was one of the reasons why we had a strong informational campaign," Poloncarz said.
The county executive's office said it's also counting on consumers to report products with microbeads.