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Support European measures in favor of products without microplastics

To influence the new expected European restriction, Surfrider Europe, in partnership with the communication agency Ici Barbes, unveils today its new campaign against microplastics that can be found in a large number of industrial and daily products, such as our cosmetics and household products. Through a series of shocking images, it condemns the intentional addition of microplastic ingredients to these products, which accumulate in nature and are seriously impacting biodiversity, and potentially our health. 

A shocking campaign which denounces the impacts of cosmetics and detergents on the environment 

Without consumers knowing, many products – including cosmetics and detergents – contain microplastics. Because of this deliberate manufacture, more than 42 000 tones of microplastics end up in the environment each year in the European Union (EU). Present in the form of particles often invisible to the naked eye, they are so small they cannot be filtered and end up, including through other routes, in rivers and the Ocean. These microplastics accumulate more and more every day in natural environments, leading to pollution getting out-of-control, and impacting severely marine health, and no doubt, human health as well. A recent study even showed they can be found in placenta! 

Key turning point in the EU

This campaign is unveiled at a crucial moment: when the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is about to hand over its restriction proposal on intentionally added microplastics. After 2 years of examination, ECHA is about to hand over to the European commission its proposal to amend the list of restrictions to the European REACH regulation aiming at improving the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals. 

The stakes are high as ECHA’s proposed restriction covers a large panel of products composed of added microplastics, including cosmetics, household products, detergents, paints, and synthetic playing field industries, etc…

An ongoing battle against corporate lobby

Even though dangers coming from microplastics have been to a great extent proven, we are afraid that corporate lobbyists could obtain even more exemptions. Indeed, behind the scenes pressure towards the ECHA’s committees have led some initial proposals from the agency to be watered down and might weigh in on the European Commission’s future decisions. 

Corporate lobbyists have for example tried to push back up to several years, the date at which microplastics added to certain cosmetics would be banned, to authorize the use of the smallest micro-plastics – also called nano plastics, inferior to 100 nanometers – even though the risks associated to their use are higher, to obtain a derogation for microplastics replaced by so-called “biodegradable” microplastics, yet as harmful for Human and Ocean Health.   

To be successful, the restriction must be ambitious

Therefore, if we fully support the EU promise to adopt restrictive measures against intentionally added microplastics, we also regret that they could come with unjustified exemptions. Should these exemptions not be abandoned by the European Commission, the efficiency of the European restriction would be necessarily decreased and microplastic pressure on the ecosystems would rise in the coming years.

The impacts of microplastics on the environment, our economy and the risks they pose on our health need further research, and may be, without any doubts, widely under-evaluated. But what we already know should lead us to act urgently. Microplastics are not a must-have to product compositions, especially cosmetics and household products. Alternatives already exist, and their plebiscite show consumers are ready for a new model. It’s now up to businesses to follow through and up to institutions to enable this green path!