Press release: 9 March 2023
EU Court delivers final blow to plastics industry on BPA
The EU Court of Justice has today confirmed that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) was right when it decided that bisphenol A (BPA) – a chemical used to make plastics – is of ‘very high concern’ for wildlife. The label implies further obligations for manufacturers and importers – and a signal that they should be investing in alternatives.
BPA has been proven to mimic the function of natural hormones in animals and humans. For example, it has been shown to harm the ability of fish and amphibians to reproduce with the potential to affect population stability.
ClientEarth’s law and policy advisor Hélène Duguy said: “Given the amount of scientific evidence regarding BPA’s harms, this is a common-sense ruling. Rather than spending time and resources fighting these decisions in court, industry should focus on investing in safe and sustainable chemicals.”
This ruling is a result of the appeal by PlasticsEurope – a trade association representing the plastic industry – after the General Court had already ruled that BPA was dangerous for wildlife.
This is not the first case that PlasticsEurope has lost on BPA. In the last four years, the Court has also confirmed the EU decisions recognising BPA as having disruptive properties for humans – specifically on our reproductive and hormonal systems.
With today’s ruling, the Court of Justice upheld ECHA’s 2018 decision recognising BPA as a hormone-disrupting chemical for wildlife.
BPA is used to make plastics in a wide variety of products including containers and bottles, kettles and dental fillings.
ClientEarth was an intervener in the case against PlasticsEurope, in support of ECHA.
Efforts are ongoing at EU level to propose a broad-scope restriction for bisphenols – with German authorities leading the charge. This would align with an EU pledge to get rid of the non-essential uses of the most harmful substances, by group.
Duguy added: “Thanks to new scientific developments, we now know that if a substance is dangerous, it’s very likely that its ‘cousin’ in the same chemical group is likely to be as dangerous. That’s why bisphenols, as a group, need to be banned. This is what the EU has committed to, but early drafts of the restriction show it would only apply to a handful of bisphenols, with many exemptions already in the works.”
Notes to editors:
The official EU list of “substances of very high concern” (SVHC) under REACH means manufacturers or importers who decide to use it have a duty to communicate information on the substance to customers, clients and public authorities but it is also a signal sent to the market to invest in alternatives.
PlasticsEurope has taken ECHA to court on three separate occasions:
- In 2019, PlasticsEurope lost a first case challenging the decision to make BPA an SVHC based on its properties as toxic for reproduction.
- In 2019, PlasticsEurope also lost a second case challenging the decision to make BPA an SVHC based on its endocrine-disrupting for humans.
- In 2021, PlasticsEurope lost its appeal on this second case challenging the decision to make BPA an SVHC based on its endocrine-disrupting properties for humans.
- In 2020, PlasticsEurope lost a third case challenging the decision to make BPA an SVHC based on its endocrine-disrupting properties for wildlife. They decided to appeal the judgment.
- Today they lost their appeal on this third case.
In all three cases, ClientEarth acted as intervener – supporting the defendant ECHA in its defence together with France and Germany against PlasticsEurope’s challenge before the EU courts.
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.