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Four EU countries jump on microplastic ban wagon

By Michelle Yeomans+

19-Dec-2014
Last updated on 19-Dec-2014 at 10:36 GMT2014-12-19T10:36:10Z

Four EU countries jump on microplastic ban wagon

The Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and Sweden have issued a joint call to ban the use of microplastics in cosmetics to protect its’ marine life from contamination.

According to the joint statement , the elimination of microplastics, particularly in cosmetics; “is of utmost priority” for the EU members.

Microplastics are found in the likes of scrub creams and shower gels, and the call comes after growing evidence from marine scientists found microplastic particles to be accumulating in the ocean, causing considerable environmental damage.

The four countries supporting a ban, have stated that while there is still some scientific uncertainty about the sources of contamination; “what we already know is sufficient to take action”.

These voluntary industry commitments further justify an EU-wide ban, the Dutch argue, saying the EU needs to restore a level-playing field for industry and strengthen the Union's role as a frontrunner for innovative products.

"Although it is evident that alternatives to microplastics in cosmetics and detergents are available, hundreds of tons of microplastics are still being released onto the EU market each year (for instance in Germany there are around 500 tons of polyethylene in cosmetic products," the statement reads.

Some cosmetic brands have already pledged to stop using microplastics..

Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever announced it was planning to phase out microplastics from a number of its personal care ranges by the year 2015, in response to increasing awareness over environmental concerns.

The company said that it had reviewed the growing evidence on micro beads from its own product portfolio and that it has consequently decided to take action on micro beads for all current ranges and a number of products in the pipeline.

"We have decided to phase out the use of plastic micro beads as a ‘scrub’ material in all of our personal care products.  We expect to complete this phase out globally by 2015," the company said in an official statement.

Scientists have also pointed out that, unlike other plastic-based pollutions, because microplastic particles are only around 5mm in diameter, assessing their exact impact on the environment is particularly difficult.