Catherine Apolinario

International overview on plastic microbeads in cosmetic products: COSMED

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

International overview on plastic microbeads in cosmetic products: COSMED

Related tags Personal care Cosmetics

Plastic microbeads have become a concern on a global scale. In this guest article, industry body COSMED shares an overview of the status of microbeads across the world.

In the majority of countries, it is the non-biodegradability of the microbeads that is of concern as well as the particle size when it is less than 5mm and this only for rinse-off products.

Here, thanks to its regulatory watch​, COSMED’s regulatory affairs manager gives a complete panorama on the status of microbeads worldwide.

What about Europe and its Member States?

Following the concerns of some member states and Environmental NGOs, Cosmetics Europe, the European trade association for the cosmetics and personal care industry, published recommendations on plastic microbeads back in October 2015.

Cosmetics Europe encourages the manufacturers not to use microbeads in cleansing products as from 2020 in order to preserve the environment.

In June 2017, The European Commission offers the opportunity for stakeholders to give their opinion on the policy options to reduce the plastic microbeads entering the marine environment.

It has invited citizens and professional organizations to take part by completing the online questionnaire by 16 October via the following link: Public consultation​.

A report will be published at the end of the year, setting out conclusions of this survey and also recommendations from a study commissioned by DG Environment.

Many Member States did not wait for a European regulation to legislate. For example:

  • In France, a law published in August 2016 prohibits microbeads in rinse off products from January 1st, 2018.
  • On February 13, 2017, Ireland opened a public consultation on a proposal to ban plastic microbeads in cosmetic and personal care products.
  • On March 2017, the UK government has proposed to ban the manufacture and the sale of cosmetic and personal care products containing Microbeads by the beginning of 2018.
  • On July 2017, Sweden published a draft regulation to prohibit the use of plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetic products. A derogation may be granted for plastic particles consisting exclusively of natural polymers that are biodegradable and non-toxic to the aquatic environment. The entry in force is expected for January 1st, 2018 with a transitional period of 6 months. The draft regulation is currently open for comment until September 4th, 2017.

What’s happening in the rest of the world?

The first country to regulate microbeads was the United States of America with state laws as Illinois, New York, Colorado etc…

On December 28, 2015, Barack Obama signed the law banning plastic microbeads in all the country. Microbeads are therefore prohibited in the USA:

  • As from July 1st, 2017, no one can produce or manufacture a cosmetic product including synthetic plastic micro beads.
  • As from July 1st, 2018, no one can:

1.    Sell a personal care product including synthetic plastic micro beads, except for an OTC drug

2.    Produce or manufacture a personal care product classified as an OTC drug and including synthetic plastic micro beads.

  • As from July 1st, 2019, no one can sell a cosmetic product classified as OTC drug including synthetic plastic micro beads.

USA has been followed by many other countries in different ways: laws, guidelines or voluntary withdrawal:

  • ASEAN: recommendation from the ASEAN Cosmetic Association
  • Australia: Voluntary withdrawal of manufacturers
  • Canada: law (Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations)
  • Korean: Law (amendment to Safety Standard for Cosmetics).
  • New Zealand: Draft Law (amendment to Waste Minimization Act)
  • Taiwan: draft regulation

The microbeads are among the many substances under the spotlight. To know more about the critical substances as CMR, endocrine disruptors or nanomaterials, Cosmed organizes on September 29th a technical and scientific exchange day on this subject. For more information, head here.

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