The restriction on synthetic polymer microparticles, so called microplastics (entry n. 78 of Annex XVII, REACH Regulation), entered into force the 17th October 2023.
The restriction arises from the European Commission’s intention to reduce “microplastic pollution”, caused by the presence of tiny fragments of synthetic or chemically-modified natural polymers, which are insoluble in water, degrade very slowly and that are widespread in the environment.
Definition of synthetic polymer microparticles (“microplastics”)
The restriction uses a broad definition of microplastics – it covers all synthetic polymer particles with a dimension equal or below five millimetres that are organic, insoluble and resist degradation.
The purpose of the restriction is to reduce emissions of intentional microplastics from as many products as possible.
The restriction introduces a ban to place on the market microplastics as substances on their own or, where the synthetic polymer microparticles are present to confer a sought-after characteristic, in mixtures in a concentration equal to or greater than 0,01 % by weight.
The ban of placing on the market synthetic polymer microparticles does not apply to the following uses:
- use at industrial sites;
- medicinal products and veterinary medicinal products;
- fertilising products;
- in vitro diagnostic devices;
- food additives, food and feed.
Also, the ban of placing on the market does not applies to those products whereby the release of synthetic polymer microparticles can be prevented or minimized during use, because:
- microparticles are contained by technical means (e.g. chromatographic columns);
- microparticles permanently lose their particle form during intended end use;
- microparticles are permanently incorporated into a solid matrix during intended end use (fibres added to concrete).
Labelling and reporting obligations
Some of the derogations foreseen by the restriction have labelling requirements that include instructions for use and disposal to minimize releases into the environment and annual reporting requirements.
Entry into force and transition periods
The restriction entered into force the 17th October 2023. However, specific transitional periods are foreseen from the application of the ban for some types of products (medical devices, detergents, some cosmetic products, etc.).