As part of the assignment, Kemi suggests the ban should apply as of 1 January 2018, and that Sweden should continue to seek to achieve an EU-wide regulation.
A proposed ban would affect products such as body scrubs and shower gels that contain plastic microbeads, referring to plastic particles that are intended to have a cleansing or scrubbing effect.
Kemi states it should be possible to apply for exemption in the case of plastic microbeads which are documented as biodegradable in aquatic environments or in wastewater treatment plants.
Microbeads have been a talking point in the industry for a little while now, as microplastic particles can be ingested by marine organisms, and small particles (<10 µm) can enter the circulatory system of these organisms.
Microplastics found in cosmetic products only constitute a small proportion of the total amount of microplastics in the marine environment; with some preliminary estimates lie at a level of 0.1%.
“This proposal therefore covers uses where the phasing out of microplastics has already made good progress and an ample number of known substitutes exist,” says the report.
“One example here are cleansing and exfoliating rinse off products. In the case of these microplastics the sector organisation KTF (the Swedish Union of Chemical Technical Suppliers) has made a personal pledge to remove them by 2017 at the latest.”
Many manufacturers have already voluntarily committed to removing microbeads from their formulations, though this is not yet complete.
According to the Swedish Chemicals Agency’s examination of lists of contents during October 2015, 36 of the 90 different exfoliating products that were examined contained plastic microbeads, and the main impact of the ban is on an area of the market that is not involved in the voluntary phasing out.
“The ban may therefore have a levelling effect on the ground rules on the market and help bring about fairer competition,” says Kemi.
The Agency also says that an alternative to a national ban would be the regulation of microplastics in cosmetic products at EU level.
Full details of the report (in Swedish/ summary in English) can be seen here.