According to a draft law due to be released today, the EU will use its chemical laws to stop most microplastics and microbeads bring added to cosmetics, paints, detergents, some farm, medical and other products.
The European Chemicals Agency said that 10,000 to 60,000 tonnes of microplastics intentionally added to products end up leaking into the environment annually, are impossible to remove and last for thousands for years.
Microplastics accumulate and stay in the environment. This is one of the main reasons as to why the agency decided that it is necessary to restrict microplastic ingredients under REACH, a strict set of chemical laws.
The restriction is expected to become law across Europe by 2020 and will prevent an estimated 400,000 tonnes of plastic pollution, said the agency.
NGOs have welcomed the move as a significant step, but strongly warned that it grants unnecessary delays for most industrial sectors and excludes some biodegradable polymers.
The draft law will only restrict cleansing products made by firms when it comes into force, however the companies have already agreed to stop using microplastics.
Other sectors will be granted 2-6 years before the law takes effect.
The proposal will go into public consultation this summer, followed by economic, social and risk assessments, and will be voted by Government experts in the secretive REACH committee not before early 2020.
European Environmental Bureau chemicals policy offer Elise Vitali said: “The European Union is rapidly becoming a leader in the global culture shift away from wasteful plastic. Microplastic is one of those vast but largely invisible problems; a menace all around and in us.
“It was fed by irresponsible firms, such as those making personal care products that decided to swap out natural ingredients like ground almond, coconut shell and olive seed for plastic microbeads. We’ll be pushing hard to tighten this proposal to ensure real impact. Tackling the plastics inside products is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solving the microplastic blight but is a necessary step.”