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Protecting environment and health: Commission adopts measures to restrict intentionally added microplastics

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The Commission has taken another major step to protect the environment by adopting measures that restrict intentionally added microplastics to products under the EU chemical legislation REACH. The new rules will prevent the release to the environment of about half a million tonnes of microplastics. They will prohibit the sale of microplastics as such, and of products to which microplastics have been intentionally added and that release those microplastics when used. When duly justified, derogations and transition periods for the affected parties to adjust to the new rules apply.

The adopted restriction uses a broad definition of microplastics – it covers all synthetic polymer particles below five millimetres that are organic, insoluble and resist degradation. The purpose is to reduce emissions of intentional microplastics from as many products as possible. Some examples of common products in the scope of the restriction are:

  • The granular infill material used on artificial sport surfaces – the largest source of intentional microplastics in the environment;
  • Cosmetics, where microplastics is used for multiple purposes, such as exfoliation (microbeads) or obtaining a specific texture, fragrance or colour;
  • Detergents, fabric softeners, glitter, fertilisers, plant protection products, toys, medicines and medical devices, just to name a few.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: "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."

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: "Banning intentionally added microplastics addresses a serious concern for the environment and people's health.  Microplastics are found in the seas, rivers and on land, as well as in food and drinking water. Today's restriction concerns very small particles, but it is a big step towards reducing human-made pollution."

A press release and a Q&A are available online.

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