A proposed ban on the use of phosphates in household laundry detergents from 1 January 2013 should be widened to household dishwasher detergents as of 2015, said the Environment Committee on Wednesday. Phosphates boost cleaning power, but also encourage the growth of algae at the expense of other aquatic life, causing "green tides".
MEPs welcomed the Commission plan to ban the use of phosphates and restrict that of other phosphorous compounds in laundry detergents as of 1 January 2013 (phosphorous compounds should be permitted only if they do not exceed 0.5 gram per standard washing machine load, MEPs say).
But the committee inserted amendments that would extend the phosphate ban and phosphorus compound restriction to include household automatic dishwasher detergents as of 2015.
Furthermore, the Commission would be required to assess, by the end of 2016, firstly whether the ban and restriction should be extended to industrial and institutional use of detergents, and secondly whether the phosphorous compound concentration limit could be further reduced for household laundry and automatic dishwasher detergents.
Phosphates released into water cause algae to grow at the expense of other aquatic life. This phenomenon, known as "eutrophication", can cause "red tides" or "green tides". The leading sources of phosphate discharge into surface waters are agriculture and sewage. Detergents come third.
The volume of phosphates entering the seas from other sources other than detergents must also be cut more drastically, in order to protect the marine environment, add MEPs. The report was drafted by Bill Newton Dunn (ALDE, UK), and approved in committee with 48 votes in favour and 8 against.
In the Chair: Jo Leinen
Co-decision, first reading
Plenary vote: November 2011