Press release: 31 August 2022

Green groups welcome microplastics restriction but warn of shortcomings

The European Commission looks set to prevent the devastating effect microplastics have on nature and people. The Commission yesterday released a draft proposal to restrict intentionally-added microplastics – finally delivering on a 2017 pledge.

Microplastics are plastics less than 5mm in size. They are nearly impossible to remove once released into the environment, with devastating impacts on nature and people. Each year around 42,000 tonnes of microplastics end up in the environment when products containing them are used.

The restriction proposal could see a ban on the use of microplastics in sports fields, cosmetics, cleaning products, pesticides, etc.

ClientEarth and the European Environmental Bureau have been following the process leading to the current proposal. Reacting to the Commission’s draft proposal, they said:

“After years of limbo, we are glad to finally see the Commission tackling this major environmental problem. It’s a relief to see that the draft proposal commits to restricting the biggest source of microplastics – those used in sports pitches. Nanoplastics – the smallest type of plastics – will also be regulated.

“That said, transition periods for companies to adapt to this new law would be exceedingly long according to this draft proposal – up to 12 years for some make-up items. That’s unacceptable. Reporting requirements for companies supplying microplastics used at industrial sites also need to be rock solid, which is not the case in the draft proposal.

“It’s crucial that this draft becomes the strongest law possible if we are to stop microplastics pollution. It’s now up to Member States to take on that responsibility. Intentionally-added microplastics are the most preventable source of microplastic pollution. One additional year without a restriction on microplastics could see levels of pollution equivalent to 1.6 billion plastic bottles released into the environment.”

The draft proposal will now be debated at the REACH Committee on 23 September.


About ClientEarth

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.