The steps the EU is taking to reduce microplastic pollution is facing fierce opposition from the chemicals industry, warn environmental lawyers ClientEarth.
The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) has proposed to restrict microplastics intentionally added to cosmetics, paints, detergents, medical devices and other products.
According to ECHA, every year, 10,000 to 60,000 tonnes of intentionally added microplastics leak into the environment, where they accumulate and persist for thousands of years, posing a threat to a wide range of organisms including marine wildlife and birds.
However, the biggest chemical industry lobby in Brussels, CEFIC, says the proposals are ‘too broad’, claiming ECHA had ‘exceeded its competence in drafting it.’
ClientEarth’s lawyer Lara Fornabaio said: ‘ECHA concluded, on the basis of a thorough scientific assessment, that the risks derived from the release of microplastics into the environment are not adequately controlled and this justifies a restriction under REACH (the EU’s chemicals policy).
Currently underway is a public consultation on the microplastics ban– which will continue till September – but ClientEarth warned that the CEFIC objections are slowing the process down.
‘This restriction proposal is a significant step forward to address plastic pollution and it should be broadly supported. We call on companies, which have chosen to invest in alternatives to microplastics, to participate to the public consultation, providing evidence that the shift towards safer alternatives is already possible.
‘We also call on other organisations to submit their comments. Together, we must create a strong front against every attempt to undermine this proposal.’
In January, an alliance of global companies from the plastics and consumer goods industries launched a new organisation to help eliminate plastic waste in the environment.
The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) is currently made up of nearly thirty member companies and has committed over $1.0bn with the goal of investing $1.5bn over the next five years to help end plastic waste in the environment.
In February, Researchers from the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory examined 50 animals from 10 species of dolphins, seals and whales found on UK shores and found microplastics (less than 5mm) in them all.