ECHA Proposes Official REACH Restriction for Microplastics

Little Pro on 2019-02-12

On 30 Jan 2019, ECHA published its official REACH restriction proposal for intentionally added microplastics. It may literally ban the use of international added microplastics in cosmetics, medical devices, detergents, fertilizers and plant protection products gradually. 

Definition of Microplastics

ECHA defines ‘microplastic’ as a material consisting of solid polymercontaining particles, to which additives or other substances may have been added, and where ≥ 1% w/w of particles have (i) all dimensions 1nm ≤ x ≤ 5mm, or (ii), for fibres, a length of 3nm ≤ x ≤ 15mm and length to diameter ratio of >3. CEFIC calls this definition too broad.

Once released, microplastics can be extremely persistent in the environment, accumulate in terrestrial and aquatic environments, posing a big threat to terrestrial and aquatic organisms.

Read more: Regulatory definition of microplastics and oxo-degradable plastics

Proposed Restriction for Microplastics

Microplastic is proposed to be banned as a substance on its own or in a mixture as a microplastic in a concentration equal to or greater than 0.01% w/w. The restriction will apply to the following products gradually. 

  • Cosmetics and other mixtures containing microplastics: Since entry into force date (EIF)
  • Leave-on cosmetics: 6 years after EIF
  • Medical devices and in vitro diagnostic devices: 2 years after EIF
  • Laundry detergents and other mixtures used for household care: 5 years after EIF
  • Fertilising products: 5 years after EIF
  • Plant protection products: 5 years after EIF

However, the proposed restriction does not apply to:

  • Mixtures containing microplastics used at industrial sites.
  • Medicinal products for human or veterinary use. 
  • Substances or mixtures where microplastics are contained by technical means throughout their use to prevent releases to the environment and incinerated or disposed as hazardous waste at the end of their life-cycle
  • Substances or mixtures where the physical properties of microplastic are permanently modified when the substance or mixture is used such that the polymers no longer fulfil the meaning of a microplastic
  • Substances or mixtures where microplastics are permanently incorporated into a solid matrix at the point of use

Read more: REACH Restricted Substances List 2019


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