The EU Commission are pushing ahead with their proposed ban of microplastics in 2021 – though likely to be early 2022 – and the revised proposals have got many to sit up and take notice. The current draft EU ban on microplastics is no small issue for industry and whilst many within the industry are unhappy with the draft proposals, the regulatory text on the table is a natural consequence of the lack of engagement with policymakers in the past. The entire microplastic regulatory process – from initial European parliamentary plastics strategy discussions to ECHA’s various investigations – has highlighted the real issues facing the cosmetics industry; there is a real lack of knowledge and understanding by policymakers of the industry.
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) proposal was indeed amended after input from expert groups and industry. However, the lack of verified data and accessible best practice case studies has repeatedly disrupted the engagement process.
How can it be that nearly three years into the current microplastics discussions, policymakers and scientific stakeholders are still lacking the adequate reliable data and case studies to confidently draw up nuanced and targeted legislative proposals.
The practical effect of this lack of knowledge by policymakers in the scientific elements of the industry is a broad microplastics definition. Indeed, many within the industry are concerned that the ECHA definition is so broad that it will lead to the inclusion of several cosmetics ingredients which are not plastic or hazardous.
The sixty-day consultation on the microplastic proposal will provide stakeholders with a timely opportunity to try and shape the final regulatory text. However, the lessons from the microplastic debate must be learnt and the industry as a whole need to dedicate greater efforts and resources to collaborative engagement with policymakers going forward. If the industry wish to be proactive and then merely presenting industry data will no longer suffice – a lesson quickly learnt by the transport sector in recent years.