ECHA proposes to ban intentionally added microplastics


Amsterdam, 30 January 2019 – The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) proposed today, on request of the European Commission, to ban intentionally added microplastics in cosmetics, detergents, paints, agricultural and industrial products. These microplastics are released into the environment and pose a risk to the environment and human health. According to ECHA, an EU-wide ban is justified.  

The Beat the Microbead coalition, running since 2012 and supported by 98 NGOs from 41 countries, is delighted with ECHA’s proposal. Jeroen Dagevos, Head of Programs at the Plastic Soup Foundation and leader of the Beat the Microbead campaign: “We consider the proposal by ECHA to restrict intentionally added microplastics as a big step forward in controlling the microplastic menace.” 

The Beat the Microbead coalition also welcomes the obligation for industry to be transparent about potential risks and to introduce new labelling requirements. Industry’s argument that a ban should be restricted to scrubs and cleansing products only is rightfully rejected by ECHA.

If adopted, the proposed restriction could result in a microplastics emissions reduction of about 400 thousand tonnes over 20 years.

Dagevos: “We are especially happy with the fact that ECHA recommends microplastics to be treated in the same way as persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic substances are treated within REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of Chemicals).”

REACH is currently the strictest chemical regulation in the world.

Intentionally added microplastics are likely to accumulate in terrestrial and aquatic environments. They can be extremely persistent, last for thousands of years and are practically impossible to remove. Concentrations in hotspots like some coastal areas already exceed tentative effect thresholds. Microplastics should therefore be restricted to minimize release as the current situation is not adequately controlled

“Of course,” says Dagevos, “there are also a few points of criticism:

  • The transition period of 4-years and 6-years for rinse-off and leave-on cosmetics respectively, is much too long. Alternatives to microplastic ingredients are widely available on the market. More than 60 brands under our ‘Zero Plastic Inside’ certification prove that it is possible to make quality products without adding microplastic ingredients.  
  • We would not prefer a lower size limit in the definition of microplastics of 1 nanometer. Especially, because nano-plastics are increasingly considered as a risk to marine and terrestrial life, including humans.
  • We regret the exclusion of semi-solid and liquid polymers, which we consider as a possible threat for human health.”

Dagevos: “But above all, we call upon the European Commission to fully adopt the ECHA proposal and also hope it will inspire other countries around the world to follow”.  


See: ECHA proposes to restrict intentionally added microplastics

See also: the video released by ECHA at the end of 2018

See also: our previous position paper concerning regulation microplastics: The BTMB campaign demands restriction of all intentionally added microplastics under REACH  

See also:  our test on microplastics in so called ‘stay on’ products like lipstick, nail polish here!


Ban and avoid plastic glitters

Amsterdam, 7 December 2018 – Glitters are spreading fast. Nowadays they are found in products such as nail polish, hairspray, shampoo and suntan lotion. Then there are the party-glitters that you put on your face. It all seems harmless and nice, but it is not. Glitters are predominantly made of plastic, often a combination of aluminium and PET. They are flushed away with the shower water and easily end up in the environment.

Worldwide, the sale of all glitter products has grown tremendously in recent years. Most users don’t realize that glitters are bits of plastic and that using them contributes to the plastic soup. Social media such as Instagram are believed to be partly responsible for the growth because people share photos and imitate each other. See for example this page with glitter on tongues.

While the presence of microplastics in care products  has been amply discussed in recent years, glitters seem to have been ignored. The attention was focused primarily on banning microplastics with a scrub function. When legislation prohibits only those plastic scrub particles, glitters and other microplastics are beyond that scope.

Last year English scientists called for a ban on glitter.

Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “Think twice about wearing glitters the coming holidays, and if you still want to, ask explicitly for glitters that are not made of plastic.”

Photo: Glitter advert

Also read: The European parliament wants to ban microplastics in cosmetics

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The worldwide revolt against plastic beats the industry

Amsterdam, 27 November 2018 The Guardian published a well researched and extensive long read, which analyzes the current worldwide revolt against plastic. In the last few years, people realised that the plastic soup crisis is one of the larger environmental problems of our day, which has to be solved. According to the writer, this realisation occurred after the public outrage of the use of microbeads in cosmetics; oddly enough, he does not refer to the success of the 2012 campaign Beat the Microbead, started by the Plastic Soup Foundation. Consumers didn’t want be complicit in the plastic soup crisis, through a simple act such as washing your hair, just because producers replaced the natural ingredients in shampoos and shrubs by the much cheaper microplastics.

What is the core problem?

For several decades, an alliance of several different, plastic related industries has countered all problems regarding plastic waste with a strategy primarily based on the continued production and increased sales of plastics. According to the Guardian article this is a two-part strategy.

  • The consumer is responsible for the plastic waste and not the plastic producers, is the first part of the strategy. And producers, the interested parties, finance organisations that promote this message. In the United States, this organisation is called Keep America Beautiful and the Dutch sister organisation is called Nederland Schoon.
  • The second part of the strategy is the promotion of the recycling of plastic household waste. This is based on the suggestion that plastic can easily be recycled and that this is a solution for the environmental problems. However, the reality demonstrates that only a very small percentage of plastics can be recycled and the products made of recycled plastic are of inferior quality. Furthermore, not all plastics are separately collected.

But the public recognizes the simplistic ideas behind this strategy and does not accept it anymore, and what is more the public has also convinced their governments. This has finally resulted in a ban on certain plastics products and governments will increasingly place the responsibility of the plastic waste back on the shoulders of the plastic producers.

The author points out a paradox in his article: while we are aware of the seriousness of the problem, we also realize the difficulty and complexity in solving plastic soup crisis. The important players in the plastic industry, for instance, are globally organized and thus difficult to regulate. However, never before has there been such a momentum to take care of the plastic soup crisis.


Also read: Unprecedented heavy lobby against European Commission Proposals


ECHA:“Microplastics accumulate in soil and waterways”

Amsterdam, 23 November 2018 – According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) microplastics are much more likely to accumulate in soil and waterways than in oceans. Commissioned by the European Commission, ECHA collects and analyses information about the risks to the environment and health caused by intentionally added microplastics in products.

Early next year ECHA will publish a report with recommendations for measures on the basis of which the European Commission can decide to prohibit manufacturers adding microplastics to their products. A restriction on their use is then regulated under REACH. Currently polymers are exempted from the REACH procedure for admission of products on the European market.

ECHA presented its initial findings at a press conference: there is abundant evidence that microplastics have invaded food chains, that they accumulate in the environment and that they do not degrade. It is difficult to tackle this problem other than at  the source. A PowerPoint presentation explains the situation and ECHA points out the effect of the Beat the Microbead-campaign. That campaign — led by the Plastic Soup Foundation — has generated much attention for the problem. Individual Member States now consider a ban on micro plastics in cosmetics.

In their presentation ECHA also points out that microplastics in care products perform many functions other than exfoliating. On a voluntary basis, the cosmetics industry has so far only removed the microplastics that fulfil an exfoliating function from the formulas. This means the problem is far from being resolved.

Earlier this year consultation meetings took place in which the Plastic Soup Foundation also gave its opinion and brought to the attention the Beat the Microbeaddata file that offers insight into the question of which microplastics are to be found in which care products of which brands.

The Agency released a video (see below) in which the Director of ECHA, Bjorn Hansen, tells that ECHA will formulate recommendations for the European Commission on the basis of the study. Jeroen Dagevos, head of programmes at the Plastic Soup Foundation, also appears in the video.

Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “Six years after we started the Beat the Microbeadcampaign in 2012, we seem to be on the verge of a European prohibition of all microplastics in all cosmetics. I am very confident that ECHA will make strong recommendations that the European Commission cannot and should not ignore.”

Also read:

From plastic soup to plastic poop
Beat the microbeat campaign demands restriction of all intentionally added microplastics


The European Parliament wants to ban microplastics in cosmetics

Amsterdam, 27 September 2018 – Breaking news: the European Parliament has embraced the environment commission’s report entitled Turning plastic wastelands into fields of gold, by a huge majority. The report, compiled by the European Parliamentarian Mark Demesmaeker, supports the Plastic Strategy, Europe’s strategy to address the plastic crisis and to stimulate circularity. The European Parliament accepted the report with 579 votes for, 15 against and 25 abstentions.

The report advocates a ban on microplastics in cosmetics. “The rapporteur believes that the most cost-efficient option is to tackle the use of micro-plastics at source. He therefore calls for a ban on micro-plastics which are intentionally added to products, such as for cosmetics and cleaning products, and for which viable alternatives are available. The recent introduction of legislation that bans the use of plastic micro-beads in rinse-off cosmetic products in some Member States, for example the United Kingdom, prove that this is possible.”

The report also cites the Mermaids Life+ project (and, as a partner in Mermaids, the Plastic Soup Foundation’s special site). Demesmaeker believes that the research has generated significant information and wants the European Commission to set legal minimum requirements for products to avoid the spread of microplastics. Apart from textiles, this should also apply to car tyres, paint and cigarette filters.

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation said that “Our efforts over the years to deal with microplastics at source is echoed in this report. Given the overwhelming support of the European Parliament for the report, the European Commission must now come with proposals for legislation. We expect a general European ban on all microplastics in all cosmetics and legal requirements to drastically limit the loss of fibres in synthetic clothing.”

Microplastics are subject to a wide debate and there are significant concerns that the tiny fragments can end up in the food chain but little is still known about the impact on human health.

The European Parliament Environment Committee wants ban on microplastics

Amsterdam/Brussels, 31 July 2018 – This month the European Parliament’s environment committee spoke out in favour of a ban on microplastics. It concerns microplastics that have intentionally been added to products such as cosmetics and detergents. The Commission also advocates a ban on oxo-degradable plastics. This type of plastic is broken down into small particles but does not break down in the environment.

Last March, the Special Rapporteur of the Environmental Committee wrote a report following the European Commission’s vision on plastic. That vision, A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, was published earlier in January. Part of the vision is the policy regarding microplastics.

The European Commission has also asked the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for scientific information on the risks of microplastics for the environment and for human health. This information may provide the basis for a ban on microplastics. The European Parliament’s Environmental Committee now argues in favour of a ban without further delay. Environmental organisations welcomed this position in a joint Press release.

The plenary vote in the European Parliament will follow in September. If the Environment Committee’s proposals are adopted, it will be difficult for the European Commission to disregard the call of the Environment Committee for a total ban on micro-plastics.

Producers have already almost entirely removed the so-called microbeads from their products. This is the result of the Beat the Microbead campaign, led by the Plastic Soup Foundation, which started in August 2012. However, a European ban does not restrict itself to these microbeads with a scrub function, but includes all nano-and microplastics in care products, including lipstick, sun tan products and nail polish. These micro-plastics are widely used in cosmetics, see the reviews by brand and by country on

Weleda International Chooses to Look for the Zero

Amsterdam, 23 April 2018 –  Weleda has informed the Plastic Soup Foundation in writing that it has opted for the Zero. The Swiss concern of natural care products is the largest cosmetics company that opts for the  Look for the Zero . Previously, Weleda Benelux had already taken that step.  

Companies that embrace the Zero declare that microplastics have not been processed in any of their products. Large cosmetic companies have replaced the microbeads of polyethylene with alternatives in recent years, but do not mention that there are dozens of other microplastics in their products. It concerns various products such as lipstick, shaving foam and deodorant.  

The only way to give customers the guarantee that care products are truly free of microplastics is when a brand explains this. The Look for the Zero offers this possibility, including the wearing of a logo. Look for the Zero is part of the international campaign Beat the Microbead and was created because there is no legislation yet prohibiting all microplastics in care products. More than 54 companies have now opted for the Zero. 

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “This is fantastic news. Weleda shows that large cosmetic companies can produce care products without microplastics. There is no excuse for multinationals such as Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, l’Oreal to process microplastics in their products. These companies continue to pollute our oceans. “ 

Also read: From Savon Marseille to refill deostick.


Beat the Microbead-coalition publishes new position paper

Jeroen Dagevos at the “Microplastics: Enjoy your meal” press conference

Jeroen Dagevos at the “Microplastics: Enjoy your meal” press conference.


Amsterdam, October 26 2017 – Plastic Soup Foundation published a new position papaer on microplastics in cosmetics on behalf of the Beat the Microbead-coalition. The aim is to realise a European ban on all microplastics in cosmetics which is not limited to microbeads.

Download the position paper ‘Stop pollution of plastic from cosmetics through an EU-wide ban’ here.

For more information about microbeads and microplastics, please refer to our file.