Helsinki – The European Chemicals Agency is finalising the draft of a landmark restriction-proposal to ban products which have 'intentionally-added' microplastics from being placed on the market in the EU/EEA.
To be submitted to the European Commission in the coming months, the proposal will be largely based on the opinions of two ECHA committees – Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC).
Among the materials targeted by the proposal are granular infill materials from end-of-life tires and other synthetic elastomers, which have been classified as ‘intentionally-added microplastics’.
On 9 Dec, SEAC completed its review of the proposal, suggesting that either a ban on rubber infill or a mandatory requirement for risk-management measures in sports pitches should be adopted by EU policy makers.
According to ECHA, the overall releases of 'intentionally added microplastics' in the EU/EEA are currently estimated to be around 42 kilotonnes a year. Of this amount, ECHA believes that, 16 kilotonnes a year are released from infill material used in artificial turf pitches.
SEAC’s recent opinion follows an earlier review by the RAC in June, which recommended an complete EU ban on all ‘microplastics’ infills following a six-year transition period.
At the time, RAC's opinion was criticised by industry players, including the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers' Association and the EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC) for its potential impact on the tire recycling and synthetic turf segments.
In a 9-Dec statement to ERJ 9, ESTC welcomed SEAC's opinion, saying its efforts had contributed to the options being considered
"We believe the final report refers to the new guidance on infill containment detailed in the recently published European Standards Committee report – that ESTC were instrumental in progressing – and the EcoLoop report that ESTC commissioned showing the effectiveness of these measures," said technical director Alastair Cox.
This, he said, is "rewarding and positive" from ESTC's perspective.
"It is clear that the case for derogation will have to be continued to be made in 2021 as the member states decide on which option is the most appropriate," Cox added.
ECHA is now aiming to send its restriction proposal, along with the opinions of both committees, to the European Commission in the first quarter of 2021, the agency said in a 9 Dec online press conference.
In addition to addressing the rubber infill issue, the ECHA proposal will recommend a complete ban on placing on the market products that contain microplastics including cosmetics, cleaning and laundry products, fertilisers, plant protection products and seed coatings.
The microplastics restrictions will then be proposed - as part of EU lawmakers' plastics strategy bill, under REACH regulations by the European Commission, voted on by EU member states and scrutinised by the EC and the European Parliament.