In the framework of the EU Plastics Strategy and at the request of the European Commission, ECHA prepared a restriction dossier under the REACH Regulation targeting intentionally added microplastics in products. The dossier was published on ECHA's website in 2019 and is being scrutinised by ECHA’s scientific committees.
The Risk Assessment Committee agreed on its opinion in June and the Socio-Economic Analysis Committee is now seeking views and additional evidence from stakeholders on their draft opinion.
ECHA's restriction dossier has a wide-ranging definition of microplastics. They are defined as solid-polymer-containing particles, to which additives or other substances may have been added, and where ≥ 1% w/w of particles have (i) all dimensions 1nm ≤ x ≤ 5mm, or (ii), for fibres, a length of 3nm ≤ x ≤ 15mm and length to diameter ratio of >3.
The dossier proposes to ban certain consumer and professional uses, while other uses would be subject to labelling/information requirements and annual reporting. Microplastics covered by the dossier have multiple applications, including in agriculture, horticulture, sport fields, cosmetic products, paints, coatings, detergents, maintenance products, medical and pharmaceutical applications, applications in the oil and gas sectors, etc. ECHA has estimated the impact of this unprecedented restriction. The emissions reduction obtained through the restriction over the next 20 years would amount to 500 000 tonnes of microplastics, while the costs would be over €10 billion.
SEAC will finalise its opinion in the autumn, also taking into account the information collected through the public consultation. Sectors affected by the restriction should follow the process closely and submit their contribution during the public consultation.
The public consultation is open until 1 September 2020.
The ECHA Committees will formulate their opinions and send them to the European Commission. This is expected at the end of 2020 or in early 2021. It is then up to the European Commission to propose an amendment to the REACH Regulation if the restriction on intentionally added microplastics meets legal requirements.