THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION looks set to prevent the devastating effect microplastics have on nature and people. On 30 August the Commission released a draft proposal to restrict intentionally-added microplastics, delivering on a 2017 pledge.

Microplastics are plastics of less than 5mm in size. They are nearly impossible to remove once released into the environment, with devastating impacts on nature and people. Each year around 42,000 tonnes of microplastics end up in the environment when products containing them are used.

The restriction proposal could see a ban on the use of microplastics in areas such as sports fields, cosmetics, cleaning products and pesticides.

ClientEarth and the European Environmental Bureau have been following the process leading to the current proposal. Reacting to the Commission’s draft proposal, they said: “After years of limbo, we are glad to finally see the Commission tackling this major environmental problem. It’s a relief to see that the draft proposal commits to restricting the biggest source of microplastics – those used in sports pitches. Nanoplastics – the smallest type of plastics – will also be regulated.

“That said, transition periods for companies to adapt to this new law would be exceedingly long according to this draft proposal – up to 12 years for some make-up items. That’s unacceptable. Reporting requirements for companies supplying microplastics used at industrial sites also need to be rock solid, which is not the case in the draft proposal.

“It’s crucial that this draft becomes the strongest law possible if we are to stop microplastics pollution. It’s now up to Member States to take on that responsibility. Intentionally-added microplastics are the most preventable source of microplastic pollution. One additional year without a restriction on microplastics could see levels of pollution equivalent to 1.6 billion plastic bottles released into the environment.”

The draft proposal will now be debated at the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Committee on 23 September.

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for, and with, its inhabitants.

* The draft proposal can be downloaded here.

* Source: ClientEarth