Brussels – Members of the European Parliament have sent their strongest message yet to the European Commission to address the issue of plastic microbeads in personal care products.

Almost half of the entire European Parliament, signed the written declaration [1] calling for the reduction of microplastic pollution, and for the Commission to take action on one particular source: personal care products, such as facial scrubs and shower gels.

Emma Priestland, Seas At Risk’s Marine Litter Policy Officer, had this to say, “These 340 signatures, from across the political spectrum and from all member states, further intensifies the pressure for legislation on microplastics. Surely now the Commission will listen?

The United States Federal government has initiated a national ban after a number of large states prohibited them due to their ecological effects. In Europe several member states are considering their own ban, however so far there is little sign that the EU is willing to follow suit.

This is not the first time the democratically elected Members of the European Parliament have requested that microbeads be eliminated – in 2013 the Parliament asked for a phase-out of micro plastics as part of the report on the European strategy on plastic waste in the environment. In the December 2014 meeting of the European Environment Council the Belgian, Dutch, Austrian and Swedish Governments also called for a ban on these products. An EU ban, combined with the new US legislation, would provide significant impetus for manufacturers to remove them from products globally.

Emma Priestland continued ‘although the European cosmetic association has recommended it’s members phase out microbeads from their products, it is clear that voluntary agreements are insufficient. A recent report showed that even if all industry commitments were fully realised, there would still be 4459 tonnes of microplastics from personal care products entering the seas per year.

Seas At Risk member organisations have been instrumental in generating support for this latest effort, activating their national memberships to call on MEPs to support this important fight against marine pollution. Seas At Risk plans to continue this fight until this wasteful and destructive practice ends.


[1] A written declaration is a tool available to MEPs to request action or make a statement. It is a short document that has three months to gain the signatures of half or more of the Members in order for it to pass and be sent to the Commission and the Council, and only a few a year achieve this. Unfortunately the written declaration on microbeads was 20 signatures short of the required amount, but it clearly demonstrates the concern of the Parliament about this source of environmental pollution.

For more information:

Emma Priestland, Seas At Risk Marine Litter Policy Officer, epriestland[at], +32 483 198 652