‘This restriction contributes to the green transition of the EU industry and promotes innovative, microplastic-free products – from cosmetics to detergents to sport surfaces.
The European Commission has adopted measures to restrict microplastics intentionally added to products under EU chemical legislation REACH.
Set to come into force within a month, the restrictions cover all synthetic polymer particles below five millimetres that are organic, insoluble and resistant to degradation.
The restrictions also prohibit the sale of microplastics and products where microplastics have been added that are then released into the environment. It is estimated that 42,000 tonnes of microplastics added to products are released into the environment in the EU each year.
The restrictions follow a risk assessment carried out by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) which concluded that microplastics intentionally added to certain products are released into the environment in an uncontrolled manner and that restriction was the best course of action. This conclusion was supported by ECHA’s scientific committees, following a consultation process with stakeholders launched in 2018.
Products that will be included in the restrictions are granular infill material used on artificial sport surfaces – believed to be the largest source of intentional microplastics in the environment – as well as cosmetics, detergents, fabric softeners, fertilisers, plant protection products, toys and medical devices.
The Commission noted that for products that would need to be reformulated – some cosmetics, for example – the restrictions will apply after 4-12 years. With sports surfaces; the restriction will apply after eight years, allowing time to switch to alternative materials.
Products used at industrial sites or not releasing microplastics during use are excluded from the sale ban, but instructions must be provided on their use and disposal to prevent microplastic emissions. Products already regulated by other EU legislation – including medicinal products, food and animal feed – are also excluded from the new restrictions.
The Commission estimates that the costs for all stakeholders such as industry, sports clubs and municipalities will be up to €19 billion over the next 20 years.
‘This restriction contributes to the green transition of the EU industry and promotes innovative, microplastic-free products – from cosmetics to detergents to sport surfaces. EU citizens will gain access to safer and more sustainable products and the EU industry, especially SMEs, which invested in and developed such innovative products will be more competitive and resilient,’ said Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market.