The EU fights against microplastics

The EU continues to step up its fight against microplastics. After introducing a ban on glitter, it has announced new plans to tackle the problem

The European Commission plans to reduce plastic pollution by 74% by the end of the decade.

The proposal, which applies to microbeads used in most plastic products, aims to reduce plastic particle pollution by 74% by the end of the decade. According to the European Commission, this will globally reduce microplastic pollution in Europe by 7%.

"The most important thing is to reduce pollution at its source," he told The Guardian Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries. "Basically, we want to significantly reduce microplastic pollution at its source."

Microplastics enter the environment at every stage of the supply chain

Small, durable plastic pellets, also known as beads or spikes, are melted down and made into everyday items, from office chairs to water bottles.

Over time, they break down into microplastics that humans and animals eat and drink. The Commission estimates that between 52.000 and 184.000 tonnes of plastic particles are released into the environment each year in the EU.

"Preventing plastic emissions is much more effective than controlling microplastics," says Dana Kühnel from the Helmholtza Center for Environmental Research.

As part of its commitment to reduce microplastic pollution by 30% by 2030, the Commission requires operators to take precautions to prevent them from harming the environment. In order of importance, they want them to prevent spills, stop spills from occurring, and clean up after spills that are not contained.

This offering includes operator best practices and required third-party certification. However, smaller operators will be able to simply "declare" that they are compliant. "SMEs have more relaxed requirements to alleviate the financial burden," Sinkevičius said.

A separate ban on certain products containing microplastics, such as glitter and other cosmetics, came into effect on Sunday. The measure scared influencers and caused an increase in sales in Germany.

Scientists and doctors have long warned that the rising tide of microplastics accumulating in the body could harm human health. Plastic particles in their original form are not small enough to cause much harm to humans, but they break down into small pieces that can enter the lungs and blood vessels. blood.

"Most of the respiratory tract is covered by a thin layer of cells and only a small amount of mucus, which makes this barrier more permeable and sensitive than the gastrointestinal tract and skin," says Eleonora Fröhlich of the University of Graz Medicine.
"In this sense, regulation would be more effective than a ban on intentionally adding microplastics to consumer products that primarily come into contact with the skin, which is the protective and least permeable barrier of the human body."

The proposal will now be debated by the European Parliament and the Council.

A report from the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts found that global microplastic pollution will double by 2040 if no action is taken. "Industry best practices exist, but they are voluntary and largely unenforced for more than three decades," said Siegfried Schmuck, who works on ocean conservation at Pew.

“The European Commission's proposal means we now have the opportunity to hold the industry to account by making these measures mandatory and effectively reducing the second largest source of microplastic pollution in the EU.”

Microplastics are dangerous for the environment and human health

Impact on the environment: Microplastics contaminate water, air and soil. In water, microplastics can be ingested by marine fauna, which can suffer digestive problems, cell damage and even death. They can also release toxic chemicals that can contaminate the food chain. In the air, microplastics can be inhaled by humans and animals, which can cause respiratory problems. In soil, microplastics can contaminate food and groundwater.

Impact on human health: Microplastics can enter the human body through inhalation, ingestion, or contact with the skin. Once in the body, microplastics can cause a number of health problems, such as:

  • Digestive problems: Micro plastics can damage the digestive tract, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation.
  • Respiratory problems: Microplastics can irritate the respiratory tract, which can cause asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Neurological problems: Microplastics can penetrate the brain and nervous system, which can cause problems such as dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
  • Reproductive problems: Microplastics can disrupt the reproductive system, which can lead to fertility problems, premature birth, and miscarriages.

Scientific evidence: Research into the effects of microplastics on the environment and human health is still ongoing. However, studies to date have shown that microplastics are a dangerous pollutant that can cause a number of problems.