The European Union is considering a ban on the vast majority of microplastics that are added to products, according to the Guardian.
The proposal would cover up to 90% of microplastics that end up polluting the environment, which could eliminate up to 400,000 tons of waste in two decades. That doesn’t mean that 90% of the total weight of microplastics will be eliminated, but that 90% of the types of microplastics intentionally added to products will no longer be legally permitted.
For example, construction, fossil fuel, and agricultural industries will have to phase out microplastic use, and products such as detergents and cosmetics will no longer be allowed to carry microplastics.
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Various forms of microplastic that unintentionally pollute the environment in massive quantities, such as from tire erosion, are not targeted and would require industries to find completely new materials.
The measure was proposed by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which will study its impact and feasibility over the next 18 months, at which point a recommendation will be made to the EU parliament. Afterwards, the ban could be implemented in under a year,
The initiative builds on a growing legislative movement throughout the European Union and elsewhere to curb plastic waste. Last year, the EU approved a ban on single-use plastics and rules are expected to go into effect in 2021.
Plastic has come under such scrutiny because of its damaging impact on ecosystems around the world. Marine life, in particular, has been devastated by plastic pollution, especially microplastics that are accidentally ingested by animals and can lead to health complications and death.
The United Kingdom has already targeted microplastics at the legislative level, but the EU proposal goes significantly further, and parliamentarians hope that the new measures will be adopted by the UK if and when Brexit occurs, the Guardian reports.
“Clearly these proposals go much further than the measures so far suggested by Michael Gove [the UK environmental minister],” Seb Dance, the UK Labor Party’s deputy leader in the European parliament, told the Guardian
“But even if Gove’s plan was as ambitious as this, there would be little point in one country taking action on its own to try to solve this crisis, as the products we buy, and the supply chains they depend on, cross many borders,” he added. “Whatever the shenanigans in Westminster, let’s hope that the government and MPs do not lose sight of the need to have comprehensive cross-border initiatives that scale up the response to the problem.”