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EU Officially Released a Draft Restricting the Use of Microplastics in Cosmetics

from CIRS by

In September 2022, the European Commission finally published the long-awaited draft amending Annex XVII to Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) as regards synthetic polymer microparticles, to limit the use of intentionally added microplastics in various products. The new proposal also puts a restriction on leave-on cosmetics, involving skincare products, perfume, and lip care products. The transition period is 6-12 years. Once the new regulation is implemented, the EU will completely prohibit the use of microplastics in all cosmetics.

The suggested transitional period for:

  • Perfume and leave-on cosmetics is six years; and
  • Lipsticks is 12 years.

However, as many non-governmental organizations thought that the transitional period was too long, it might be modified at a later stage.


What are microplastics?

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that are often used in products such as skincare and makeup, toothpaste, exfoliation products, and facial cleanser. Microplastics are insoluble in water and the size of these particles is very small, thus they can easily pass through the filtration system of the sewage treatment plant and finally flow into the sea, resulting in environmental pollution.

The new proposal put forward that the concentration of microplastics added in the mixture shall not exceed 0.01% w/w -such a low concentration, it actually equals the prohibition of microplastics in cosmetics. The size of synthetic plastic particles also increased, from 1 nanometer (nm) to 0.1 micrometer (µ m), and the fibrous particles increased from 3 nm to 0.3 µ m. The new proposal also requires that products containing synthetic polymer particles should be indicated on the label, packaging, safety data sheet, or packaging instructions.

Microplastics around the world

Although the EU has not banned the use of microplastics in cosmetics for a long time, many countries and regions around the world have taken action. As early as 2014 and 2015, the Netherlands issued a ban on adding plastic particles to products. The United States Congress also passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act in 2015. In 2018, the UK issued a sales ban on products containing “plastic particles”, prohibiting retailers in England and Scotland from selling products containing “plastic particles”.

In China, the Guiding Catalogue for Industrial Restructuring (2019 Edition) issued by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) stipulates that the production of daily chemical products containing plastic particles shall be prohibited by December 31, 2020, and shall not be made available on the domestic market by December 31, 2022.

On July 10, 2020, nine ministries and commissions, including the NDRC, issued the Notice on the Promotion of Plastic Pollution Control, in which the detailed standard of daily chemical products containing plastic particles was specified in the appendix of the notice, that is, “to play the role of sanding, exfoliating, cleaning, etc., rinse-off cosmetics with intentionally added solid plastic particles less than 5 mm such as bath, facial cleanser, scrub paste, shampoo, toothpaste, and tooth powder.

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