EU (ECHA) – Proposal for a restriction on intentionally added microplastics
EU Microplastic Regulation: A slow process, but clarity may be on the horizon
Whilst the proposed EU restriction on intentionally added microplastics has been around for several years, there is still no firm date as to when it will come into force. The European Commission has now prepared a draft regulation and this needs to be discussed and voted on by EU member states in the REACH committee. Before the restriction can be adopted, it is then scrutinised by the European Parliament and the Council.
If adopted, the regulation will bring clarity to the definition of a microplastic. It is already clear that as well as non-biodegradable synthetic polymers, biopolymers that are only compostable, such as Polylactic Acid (PLA) and those with limited biodegradability, such as Cellulose Acetate, will not meet the regulation if present above the specified limit for solid polymer.
Legal enforcement in markets that concern glitter:
The proposed regulation allows a transitional period of between 4 and 12 years (depending on the type of cosmetics) before a ban on microplastic glitter is imposed.
What does the proposed microplastic regulation mean for glitter?
Summary of ECHA’s Microplastic definition:
‘Microplastic’ means a material consisting of 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.
Polymers that occur in nature that have not been chemically modified (other than by hydrolysis) are excluded, as are polymers that are (bio)degradable.”
How does this relate to glitter?
As expected with such a complex subject the proposal is highly detailed. However, in simple terms the definition of a microplastic can be broken down into two parts: one relating to the particle size of the glitter and the other relating to its polymer content. ALL glitters contain polymer in the core film and surface coating.
- Glitter Size: The vast majority of glitter products are below 5mm in size terms, so they are within the scope of the proposed definition of a microplastic.
- Glitter Material: It’s considered to be microplastic UNLESS the polymers in the glitter are; completely soluble, completely natural (not modified) or proven to be (bio)degradable. Biodegradability is determined by passing tests as specified in the proposed regulation.
Bioglitter™ and the EU Microplastic Regulation:
We are guided by the EU Microplastic regulation and will await completion of all reviews and issue of the final clarified legislation before issuing compliance statements.
Biodegradability testing of our existing Bioglitter™ product ranges suggest we are well placed versus the proposed legislation, with options in-hand to adjust product composition as required once we have full clarity of the final, adopted regulation.
- In permitted tests, such as OECD 301 Readily Biodegradability test, Bioglitter™ products achieve >90% (>60% is required to pass). ISO14851 and ISO 14852 Fresh Water Biodegradation tests are also specified in the proposal and these are the test methods used in the TÜV ‘OK biodegradable WATER’ certification that Bioglitter™ products have been awarded.