EU's ECHA microplastics ban proposals move forward, final opinion in early 2020

HELSINKI (ICIS)--The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is in the process of developing proposals for additional regulation on intentionally-added microplastics in professional and consumer applications, one of the body’s heads of risk management said on Friday.

The EU's chemicals regulator was asked to investigate the need for restrictions on the materials, which are most prevalent in detergents, printing inks, paints, seed coatings and rubber granules found on sports fields.

The Helsinki-based agency has been working on it for the last year, according to Mark Blainey, one of ECHA’s heads of unit for risk management.

The regulator proposed restrictions in January 2019, and the measures are current being scrutinised by its scientific committees, before moving on to the Commission, with a final opinion expected by March 2020, Blainey said.

The measures under discussion include prohibitions on placing products in the market for some uses, although if adopted the restrictions will be phased in over up to six years in some cases.

Prohibitions may be relaxed in instances where usage is well contained, and microplastics do not spill into the environment, he added.

Increased disclosure requirements may also be mandated in some instances, in the form of safety data sheet information or instructions on consumer items.

A source of microplastics contamination into the water supply is disposal of unused paint by consumers, where buyers rinse out paint brushes and paint trays in the sink.

Increased user education about the impact of that, and how to avoid that contamination, could reduce environmental pollution from the material, added Blainey, pictured.

A public consultation is ongoing, and the proposals will pass to the Commission before the end of the year.

The EU has proposed banning up to 90% of microplastics used in the 28-country bloc as part of its drive to reduce ocean waste.

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