The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has published a dossier proposing a Restriction on microplastics in consumer products, including cosmetics. The Restriction has been proposed as part of European chemicals legislation for the Restriction, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH). You may have read media reports of this action.
Just as any responsible industry would, CTPA shares the widespread concerns about the serious issue of plastic pollution in our aquatic environments. As far back as 2015, the cosmetics industry recognised the need to address the presence of solid plastic microbeads in products in which they were used, and so began phasing them out voluntarily at that stage, as part of a Europe-wide initiative. CTPA then welcomed the UK Government's legislation in 2017, which banned the use of plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetic products.
That ban was based on sound science and prohibited the use of those ingredients where they may reach the marine environment. In contrast, and disappointingly, the European Restriction proposal from ECHA is not based on evidence or sound science. As a result, not only has it suggested the restriction of substances that aren't solid plastic, but also the restriction of ingredients used in leave-on cosmetics that are not likely to even reach the aquatic environment. The proposals therefore have no measurable benefit to the marine environment and, if taken forward, could result in drastically reduced choice for consumers and less effective products, but with no apparent advantage to our waterways.
CTPA wants any initiatives or legislation protecting our waters to be beneficial for the marine environment and to have a significant impact. On this basis, CTPA urgently encourages the use of sound science in tackling the major causes of plastic waste, in order to deliver real, meaningful, benefit for the environment.
Dr Emma Meredith, Director-General of the CTPA and a pharmacist by profession says:
"CTPA shares the concern over the significant and serious issue of plastic pollution in aquatic environments, which is why CTPA has been working with the UK cosmetics industry to remove plastic microbeads as far back as 2015 on a voluntary basis. CTPA is very disappointed with the European Restriction proposal, because it will have a disproportionate impact on the cosmetics industry with no measurable benefit to the marine environment.
"The Restriction proposal has the potential to severely impact the cosmetic products available to consumers. Solid polymers play many essential roles in cosmetic products, roles which simply cannot be replaced by alternative substances in many cases. Therefore, consumers across Europe may find that their choice of products, and the benefits that these products provide, may be reduced in the future."