Companies must have a plan against microplastics losses

A microplastics risk assessment and management plan will be mandatory

Prevent the microplastics losses throughout the supply chain, to reach zero. This is the aim of a proposal for a European Commission regulation approved by the European Parliament. With 538 votes in favour, 32 against and 31 abstentions, MEPs closed what is called in jargon “first reading” of the text to reduce microplastic pollution. The file will then be taken in hand by the next Parliament, to close a three-way negotiation with the EU Council and the European Commission that will lead to the final version.

The new rules will require all entities managing these microparticles to take measures to avoid losses. In the event of an accident, they will also have to intervene promptly to contain and clean the spills. Approximately 57 million tonnes of granules were produced and managed in the EU in 2021. It is estimated that between 52,140 and 184,290 tons of microplastics were lost to the environment in 2019 across the continent.

read also A clear green light to cut 30% of microplastic pollution

Details of the microplastic regulation

In detail, the proposed Regulation requires economic operators to establish a risk assessment plan for each plant that manages more than 1000 tonnes of plastic granules per year. MEPs want this measure to be applied two years after the entry into force of the regulation on large enterprises, three years for medium-sized enterprises and five years for small enterprises. They also propose to label all plastic granules storage and transport containers with a specific pictogram and hazard information.

The hope of getting to grips with the problem of microplastics is ambitious. First of all, because these are the product of a production system that, from textiles to cosmetics, is based on chains in which plastic fibers and microparticles are now part of the economy. Even the recycling sector, which has hitherto been regarded as the main solution to the problem of plastics, is a problematic source of tiny pollutant particles in every investigation. Many filters are not able to retain these crumbs resulting from the crushing of plastic products. Thus, the solution sometimes contributes to the problem.

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