Cosmetics Europe chief: Industry must brace for ‘unprecedented’ regulatory change

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

In 2023, two revised Directives on urban waste water treatment and packaging would become critical to follow closely, among other updates [Getty Images]
In 2023, two revised Directives on urban waste water treatment and packaging would become critical to follow closely, among other updates [Getty Images]

Related tags: Cosmetics europe, Regulation, European commission, European parliament, European union, MEPs, Regulations, Eu, Packaging, Extended Producer Responsibility

The level of regulatory changes set to impact the beauty and personal care sector in the EU this year is unprecedented, and so industry must stay connected and informed, says the director-general of Cosmetics Europe.

This year, industry had several EU regulatory shifts coming through various approval stages. The EU Cosmetics Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009​ was being updated, as was the EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals [REACH] regulation​; the EU restriction on microplastics​ was reaching final stages; and two revised Directives were set to pass into law this year – the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive​ and EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive​.

“Currently, there are a number of different regulatory proposals coming through simultaneously; it’s fairly unprecedented,”​ said John Chave, director-general at pan-European trade association Cosmetics Europe.

Chave told CosmeticsDesign-Europe it was fair to say industry could brace for some “intense regulatory activity” ​in 2023. ​And every cosmetics company in the EU, he said, and beyond in some cases, would be affected by “practically all of these regulations at some level”.

“…It’s really important everybody in the wider cosmetics community stays engaged on the issues, because there are significant challenges for us as an industry in 2023 and beyond, and the only way we can meet them is if we mobilise all resources.”

European Parliament engagement

Importantly, two of these regulatory changes recently entered critical phases, he said, with proposals now with European Parliament for consideration. This was the case, for example, with the revised Directives on urban waste water treatment and packaging waste, Chave said.

“That means a different kind of activity for Cosmetics Europe, because we have to engage with a broader range of stakeholders, notably representatives are national level and also, very importantly, in the European Parliament,” ​he said.

And the European Parliament had a “very significant say” ​over the final form of these initiatives, he said. “It’s a very, very intense activity. I think it’s reasonable to say that industry in very general terms, and not just our industry but others, has to work hard to get its voice heard within the European Parliament and get its point across so we can end up with legislation at the end of the day which is balanced and proportionate.”

As these two Directives, and other proposals, reached Parliament stages, Chave said Cosmetics Europe remained focused on engaging with Members of Parliament (MEPs) to ensure any final regulatory decisions were in the best interest of industry members on the ground.

The director-general urged European companies and brand owners to also engage with their local MEPs, reaching out to them for discussions and even inviting them to visit facilities, as this would help further engage and inform European Parliament on the everyday workings of the cosmetics industry. “One thing I’d be very honest about that we’ve found in our discussions with stakeholders at European level, including the European Commission, is really a lack of understanding of the [cosmetics] sector and what our products mean to consumers; how we compete; how we innovate; the role of SMEs in our sector; our exporting and massive trade surplus etc. We really need to get these ideas across.”

EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive

The EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive​, initially adopted in 1991, had been designed to protect the water environment for adverse effects of urban waste and discharge for waste water from certain industrial sectors. Currently under revision, in October 2022 the European Commission (EC) published its proposal for a new Directive, outlining new standards and limit values, extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules, better digitalised monitoring and tracking of pollution, and cooperation between health and waste water authorities, among other things. The changes formed part of the European Union’s wider environmental push via its Green Deal.

Discussing the proposal, Chave said Cosmetics Europe had been surprised by the Directive to some extent.

“It’s something which covers our industry, but to be very frank, we didn’t really expect to be in the frame,”​ he said. The October proposal had “singled out”​ cosmetics, he said, alongside pharmaceuticals, as “major sources of micropollutants in waste water” ​– a claim the trade association wanted to “absolutely challenge”.

“We don’t challenge ‘the polluter pays’ principle, I think that’s fair, but we challenge the methodology the Commission has used to judge we are the second-biggest polluter. We simply think it’s wrong,”​ he said.

“…There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings at the root of the Directive. We’ve been brought very directly into the frame, so [Cosmetics Europe] will be going out and explaining why the EC has misunderstood cosmetics ingredients. To take one example, caffeine is in the waster water system and caffeine is, of course, a cosmetic ingredient. It’s not a very widely used one though; we’re pretty sure that the cosmetic industry is not the major contributor to caffeine in waste water. That’s the kind of misconception we think the Commission has fallen into.”

The director-general stressed that industry would, of course, take responsibility for any contribution to micropollutants and backed the Directive’s push for waste water treatment plants to be updated, but contested the suggestion cosmetics was the second-biggest polluting industry in Europe and was “the source of all these ingredients”​ found in waste water.

“There are only two industries mentioned, and the idea that micropollutants in waste water only come from two industries is just manifestly silly,”​ Chave said.

EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive

The EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive​, initially adopted in 1994, had been designed to harmonise national measures concerning the management of packaging and packaging waste to minimise overall environmental impact. Also under revision, in November 2022 the European Commission (EC) published its proposal, outlining new extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules and a drive to boost reuse and refill, make all packaging recyclable and improve labels to stop the increase in packaging waste across Europe. Much like the urban waste Directive, it formed part of the European Union’s wider environmental Green Deal and, more specifically, the Circular Economy Action plan within this.

Discussing the proposal, Chave said the end goals around recycled and recyclable packaging content aligned well with the overall ambitions held by the beauty and personal care sector.

The challenge, however, would be ensuring “particular features and aspects”​ of cosmetics packaging were “fully understood and respected” ​as regulations were applied,​ he said. For example, there had been discussions around whether cosmetics should be included as contact sensitive for packaging, like food, he said. Eventually, the category had been, but he said it would be key that this was maintained in the final form of the proposal.

“We’re not opposed to the objectives, we just want to make sure very specific aspects of our sector are ultimately taken into account,”​ he said.

Earlier this month, Emma Meredith, director-general of the UK’s Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), discussed the impact of EPR requirements on packaging for UK businesses​, noting it would be crucial companies monitored and understood the changes.

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