The European Union has now proposed a must needed ban on microsplastics that cover roughly 90% of pollutants in an attempt to cut 441, 000 tons of plastic pollution in the next 20 years.
The proposal was brought forth by the European Chemicals Agency and would remove 39.700 tons a years starting in 2020. The pollutants come from a wide variety of sources including cosmetics, detergents, paints, polish as well as products from the construction, agriculture and fossil fuel industries. All of these products would require product redesigns.
Microplastics have become such a huge problem that the amount Europe is releasing yearly is six times the size of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
While microplastics are surely just part of the solution, it is a positive step forward in pushing industries to get away from plastics, particularly single-use plastics. Most of the microplastics outlined in the proposal are added to products by manufacturers for convenience or profits.
The draft law targets microplastics that are not necessary but have been added to products by manufacturers for convenience or profit.
Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, said: “Microplastics are a growing concern to a number of human rights. The steps proposed by Echa are necessary to help ensure present and future generations can enjoy what is their human right: a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”
The EU’s measure is “much more comprehensive”, according to its authors, in terms of the sectors, volumes and product usages covered.
The legislation also phases out the use of microplastics in products such as fertilizers, from which scientists believe they may be entering the human food chain.
Echa’s scientific committee will review the proposal for 15 months before sending an opinion to the European commission, which will have three months to prepare legislation. It could then take up to eight months for use restrictions to come into force.
This is not the only step the EU is taking in protecting the environment. Other steps being taken include taxes and bans on single-use items as well as a €350m investment in modernising the sector through investment and more recycling.
While this potential ban is a step in the right direction, it certainly lacks the urgency and all-encompassing approach many environmentalists are pushing for as the timeline for implementation is rather long and there are no guarantees currently for any bans.