The EU’s Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has proposed new regulations that could see microplastics banned from addition to a wide range of products.
Microplastics – pieces of plastic smaller than five millimetres – can be intentionally added to cosmetics, paint, detergents, medicinal items and more. The proposed law, which will need to pass through a rigorous series of reviews and assessments over the next year – would ban the use of these tiny plastics in an attempt to prevent them finding their way into the natural environment, where they can persist for years and are extremely hard to remove. There is not widespread scientific understanding of the effect of these plastics over time, but they have been found across the food chain, in insects, marine creatures and in food that humans consume.
The proposed law could be in place by 2021. It comes as part of the EU’s wider Plastics Strategy, and has been welcomed by campaigners, though members of the Rethink Plastic Alliance of NGOs have stated that the regulations need to be ‘tightened up’ before they become legislation.