Once microplastics enter the environment, they cannot be biodegradable or removed. They accumulate in animals, including fish and shellfish, and are therefore consumed as food by humans.
Microplastics have been found in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems, as well as in food and drinking water. Their continuous release will cause permanent pollution to our ecosystem and food chain. In laboratory research, exposure to microplastics is associated with a series of negative (ecological) toxicity and physical effects on organisms.
To this end, the European Commission has taken another important measure to protect the environment, in accordance with the EU chemical regulation REACH, measures have been taken to limit the intentional addition of microplastics to products. It is estimated that the EU intentionally adds 42000 tons of microplastics to its products every year. The new regulations will prevent the release of approximately 500000 tons of microplastics into the environment. They will prohibit the sale of microplastics themselves, as well as products that intentionally add microplastics and release them during use. When there is a legitimate reason, the affected parties apply derogation and transition periods to adapt to the new rules.
The limiting measure adopts a broad definition of microplastics, which covers all organic, insoluble, and biodegradable synthetic polymer particles smaller than 5 millimeters. The purpose is to reduce the intentional emissions of microplastics from as many products as possible. Examples of common products within the restricted scope are as follows:
Particle filling materials used on artificial sports surfaces: the largest source of intentional microplastics in the environment;
Cosmetics: Microplastics are used for various purposes, such as exfoliating (micro beads) or obtaining specific textures, fragrances, or colors;
Detergents, fabric softeners, glittering agents, fertilizers, plant protection products, toys, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment.
Products that are used in industrial premises or do not release microplastics during use are not subject to sales bans, but their manufacturers must provide instructions on how to use and handle the products to prevent microplastics emissions.
The first batch of measures will be implemented within 20 days after the restrictive measures come into effect. However, in most cases, sales bans will be implemented after a longer transition period to give stakeholders time to adapt to the new rules and determine alternative solutions.
For example, the sales ban immediately applies to cosmetics containing micro beads (small plastic beads used for exfoliation) as their use has been phased out. It is also suitable for instant loosening made of shiny plastic. However, the new measures will not apply to other cosmetics until 4-12 years later, depending on the complexity of the product, requiring reformulation and the availability of suitable substitutes.
The ban on filling materials for sports stadiums will take effect after 8 years, giving owners and managers time to replace substitutes and allowing most existing sports stadiums to reach their lifespan.
Contact Person: Mr. Fan