Microplastic Pollution

Scientific perspectives and its impacts

Concern about microplastic pollution and its impact on the environment and human health is increasing among scientists, policy makers and the general public.

Microplastic pollution was mentioned, but not dealt with in depth, by the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors in its Scientific Opinion on Food from the Oceans  PDF icon 3.2 MB . Following this, the Group launched a preliminary exploration of the topic at its 11th meeting (January 2018) which culminated in a workshop discussion with several experts on 26 April 2018 (see below). Based on this discussion, the Group decided at its 12th meeting (27 April 2018) to launch work leading to scientific advice on this topic based on a review of scientific evidence by SAPEA, pending endorsement by the College of European Commissioners.

Initial Statement

The Group of Chief Scientific Advisors adopted an Initial Statement on the subject on 9th July during its plenary meeting in Toulouse on the occasion of ESOF 2018 at which the European Commission endorsed the approach set out in the statement. The Scientific Advisors intend to deliver to the Commission an Explanatory Note before the end of 2018 based on a SAPEA scientific evidence review report, and a Scientific Opinion in 2019.

Related topic activities

Scoping workshop with experts on Human Health and Environment Impacts of Micro and Nano Pollution

The workshop aimed at gathering the views of a number of experts, identified by the Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA) consortium and the SAM Support Unit, on whether or not the delivery of advice based on state-of-the-art scientific knowledge would be justified and feasible, and if so, what could be the scope of such advice and the approach to formulating it. The main points retained from this workshop discussion are recorded below.

The meeting was co-chaired by Rolf-Dieter Heuer and Pearl Dykstra.


  • Main Points  PDF icon 464 KB (includes Participants' List and Background Note for discussion)

The policy context

The Group of Chief Scientific Advisors asked the SAM Unit to prepare an overview of the policy context pertinent to its deliberations on scientific advice to the European Commission on the environmental and health impacts of microplastic pollution. The resulting background paper, prepared by the SAM Unit with the help and input from several colleagues and collaborators, gives a snapshot of various policy measures and legislative instruments in place or under development. It covers primarily the policy landscape at EU level. It also includes chapters describing measures and initiatives at international level as well as an illustrative, non-exhaustive sampling of measures at national level in many countries worldwide.

As the policy context is evolving very quickly, the paper has attempted to include – mostly in the EU chapter but in some other places too - recent and forthcoming developments as of the completion date (15 November 2018), in full knowledge that some of this information will be rapidly out-of-date. Nonetheless it is hoped that the paper will fulfil its function to inform the process underway leading to a Scientific Opinion on the subject in 2019.