17 June 2022
- Politicians, academics and campaigners all call for comprehensive EU microplastics restriction
- Any watered-down future EU legislation set to pave way for greenwashing
- Research from Plastic Soup Foundation found almost nine-in-ten products from major cosmetics brands contain microplastics
Experts have come together from across Europe to explore how the EU can ensure upcoming microplastics restriction can protect both the environment and humans.
This follows research from Plastic Soup Foundation found almost nine in ten cosmetic products from major brands contained microplastics.
The panel was hosted by Maeve Campbell, Deputy Editor at Euronews and featured European experts in politics, academia, and campaigning, including Martin Hojsik MEP, Hélène Duguy Law and Policy Advisor at Client Earth, Prof. Hans Peter Arp, Department of Environmental Chemistry NGI & Department of Chemistry, NTNU, Dr David Green, Centre for Marine & Coastal Zone Management, University of Aberdeen and Bentelise Kraaijeveld, Advocacy Officer, Plastic Soup Foundation.
All members of the panel were in agreement that any watered-down version of an EU microplastics restriction will only pave the way for greenwashing, and reduce the effectiveness of any future legislation.
They pointed out that the precautionary principle should be applied and all synthetic polymers should be regulated in order to prevent significant damage to both the environment and human health.
Bentelise Kraaijeveld, Advocacy Officer, Plastic Soup Foundation said, “If we make all these derogations, there will be regrettable substitutions, because industry will be able to move from solid particles to liquid, soluble, smaller particles and at the moment we don’t know enough about them.”
Upcoming European legislation may exclude many types of synthetic polymers and thus enable businesses to continue using potentially damaging pollutants in many of their products.
In response to this, Hélène Duguy Law and Policy Advisor at Client Earth, said, “We cannot pretend that these microplastics will be replaced and disappear in our environment without action. It is quite disappointing that progress has been so slow at EU level despite discussion in many of the member states.”
The panel discussed how Europe can lead the fight against microplastics with Martin Hojsik MEP suggesting, “I was hoping we would see more progress by now on this issue. There are challenges on how we regulate but one disappointing thing is that this is not a new problem. We are not waking up to an emerging threat but for some reason industry is only just taking notice. It is shocking that microplastics can be included in so many products.”
Dr David Green, Centre for Marine & Coastal Zone Management, University of Aberdeen on what would a comprehensive ban in the EU look like, stated that, “governments should see the damage caused by microplastics as good enough reason to regulate. It is shocking to see how plastics have crept into everyday life and cosmetics without any clear reason.”
Prof. Hans Peter Arp, Department of Environmental Chemistry NGI & Department of Chemistry, NTNU shared his thoughts on how urgent it is that a radical re-think of the European Chemical Agency’s (ECHA) current definition of microplastics to include all synthetic polymers. He said, “The long-term things I’m worried about is what persistent polymers we are putting out there, whether these are microplastics by the ECHA definition, or soluble polymers, because we are seeing these accumulate in the remote oceans and the water column, we see them accumulate in the soils, we see them even starting to accumulate in the body, and we don’t know what the long term consequences are. They are persistent, they are not reversible, they are going to be there forever.”
The panel was convened by A Plastic Soup Foundation after a report, Plastic – The Hidden Beauty Ingredient, found 87 percent of products from the ten best-selling cosmetics brands contained plastic.
Every minute it is estimated over seven kilos of microplastics deriving from personal care products will end up in the environment across Europe.
Unveiling the research as the EU prepares to introduce new restrictions on the addition of microplastics to products such as cosmetics, detergents, and pesticides, Plastic Soup Foundation warned the legislation might not go far enough.
The study focused on ten brands: L’Oréal Paris; Elvive; Garnier; Nivea; Gillette; Oral-B; Head & Shoulders; Dove; Rexona; and Axe, from Europe’s four largest cosmetics manufacturers: L’Oreal; Beiersdorf; Procter & Gamble; and Unilever. Of the ten brands investigated, 7,704 different products formed the report’s database, with only 13 percent being found to be free of microplastics.
Watch the panel