Brussels – Seas At Risk is supporting a campaign recently launched in the European Parliament by a group of MEPs led by the British MEP Catherine Bearder, which is calling on the Commission and Council to take action on the issue of microplastic pollution.

Written declarations are a tool MEPs can use to bring a particular topic to the attention of the Commission in the hope of new legislation. To get a written declaration to pass, 360 MEP signatures are required, collected over a 3 month period. Although there are dozens of written declaration proposals, very few are successful in reaching the required number of signatories.

Ms Bearder’s joint declaration highlights the fact that microplastics originate from many different sources, including the breakdown of larger pieces, the shedding of synthetic fibers and the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products. These microbeads are designed to be washed down the drain, and are not collected by waste water treatment plants due to their small size, meaning they end up in the sea, adding to the ever-growing marine litter problem.

A recent study for the European Commission estimated that although there are many other sources of primary microplastics, cosmetic microplastics can be contributing 4.1% in Europe per year, between 2,461 and 8,627 tonnes. Considering current efforts to reduce the input of marine litter have so far had little effect, this is a significant source of plastic in the ocean that can be stopped with relative ease.

The United States has led the way on this front, with a recent federal ban on microplastics in personal care products passed in Congress at the end of last year. Seas At Risk and our members hope that in light of this precedent, and the ongoing efforts to protect our marine environment and implement a circular economy, the Commission will propose legislation to tackle this source of pollution.

Even Cosmetics Europe, the cosmetics industry association, has released a recommendation that its members phase out the use of solid microplastic ingredients from wash-off cosmetics and personal care products. Nonetheless NGOs, researchers and MEPs believe that EU legislation is needed, to ensure that all primary microplastics are removed from cosmetics and personal care products as a starting point. This would create a level playing field across Europe, and ensure that no future products contain these wasteful and destructive elements.

The written declaration is due to close on the 1st of May. To achieve the target of 360 MEPs, assistance will be required from all interested citizens and organisations. Sea At Risk will mobilise its members in support of this action and encourages interested citizens to contact their national MEPs with the code for the written declaration, asking for them to sign it before the deadline. 

You can see the written declaration here.

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