Working on the world’s broadest restriction of intentional uses of microplastics
ECHA’s proposal to restrict intentionally-added microplastics is the most comprehensive restriction initiative in the world for reducing emissions from intentional uses of microplastics. Following an extensive consultation in 2019, the Agency has updated its proposal while remaining independent and following a transparent and evidence-based scientific approach.
Helsinki, 1 September 2020 – Despite claims made by certain NGOs, the updated proposal has assessed the information made available to us by all stakeholders, including NGOs, in a scientific manner. All modifications that have been made are based on solid arguments and evidence received during a six-month consultation of stakeholders, which ran from March to September 2019. Comments came from 477 individual stakeholders, including industry, NGOs, local communities and sports associations. These comments were assessed and published on our website with responses, and the changes proposed by ECHA are detailed in the draft background document.
Updates were introduced, for example, to the definition of a microplastic and the options for managing risks from polymeric infill used in artificial turf pitches. The overarching aim of all the changes has been to make sure that the restriction functions as it was intended and can be enforced efficiently – while at the same time not delaying the reduction of microplastics emissions.
Peter van der Zandt, ECHA’s Director for Risk Management, says: “We want to make sure that our far-reaching and ground-breaking proposal is workable, so that its undoubted benefits can be realised. The proposed restriction is estimated to reduce the emission of intentionally added microplastics in the environment by at least 500 000 tonnes over the next 20 years. Our updated proposal actually increases the reduction of emissions in absolute volumes compared to the original proposal. I can reassure our stakeholders that any changes made during the process are unbiased and justified by robust evidence”.
The opinion-making process is still ongoing. The Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) adopted its opinion in June, supporting ECHA’s proposal while giving their own recommendations on certain aspects. The consultation of the draft opinion of the Committee for Socio-economic Assessment (SEAC) closes at 23:59 Helsinki time on 1 September.
All stakeholders have been able to send in further evidence since 1 July for SEAC to take into account in their final opinion, which is expected by the end of this year. So far, we have received over 150 comments, mainly from companies and individual citizens. Fewer than 10 comments have so far been received from NGOs containing mainly generic objections to the changes made rather than providing new evidence that may be used by SEAC for their final opinion making.
ECHA published its proposal to restrict intentionally-added microplastics in January 2019. Since then, it has been subject to a six-month consultation and discussed in the two scientific committees: Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC). RAC has already adopted its opinion, while SEAC is expected to do so by the end of 2020.
The decision on the restriction and its scope will be made by the European Commission with the EU Member States – taking into account the RAC and SEAC opinions and ECHA’s proposal. If, in the future, robust scientific evidence is submitted that shows a need to update the restriction, this is possible. In that case, the European Commission can ask ECHA to investigate and, if needed, propose changes to the eventually adopted restriction.