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Procedure : 2010/0298(COD)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0246/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0246/2011

Debates :

PV 13/12/2011 - 16
CRE 13/12/2011 - 16

Votes :

PV 14/12/2011 - 7.3
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0568

Debates
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

16. Use of phosphates and other phosphorous compounds in household laundry detergents (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report by Bill Newton Dunn, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 as regards the use of phosphates and other phosphorous compounds in household laundry detergents (COM(2010)0597 – C7-0356/2010 – 2010/0298(COD)) (A7-0246/2011).

 
  
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  Bill Newton Dunn, rapporteur. – Mr President, actually there is a connection, because if you have a party and drink lots of fruit juices, then you have to do the cleaning up afterwards. So I think there is a direct logical link. That was a debate about helping consumers; this is about saving the world. So it is a very important debate.

The Commission proposal is to remove phosphates from the detergents which we put into domestic washing machines: not controversial; all Member States appear to agree, and the Commission produced a very good draft regulation. Why we want to take out phosphates, I should add, is because, although they act as abrasives within the washing process and help to eliminate the dirt, when they are discharged into water, they cause eutrophication, which leads to the growth of green algae that spreads across lakes and waters and seas, depriving wildlife of oxygen. So we need to remove them; everybody agrees on that.

It came to the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and we discussed it and thought it was a good step forward – thank you, Commission, for the proposal – but why not throw in dishwashers as well, as they also use phosphates in their detergents? The committee voted by 48 to 8 to include dishwashers, and we thought: good, we are improving the situation for everybody. But there was a small problem. The Council was taken by surprise by this change and did not agree. Here, I would like just to say a warm word of thanks to all the shadow rapporteurs and the other members of the committee who helped, the committee secretariat and my own assistant – they did a fantastic job working on this and presenting a united front.

So we talked closely to the Polish Presidency, who were also magnificent in their enthusiasm and cooperative spirit. They said that they did not have a majority in the Council so this was very difficult, and so on. The big moment of change – the turning point – came when Denmark had a national election, and the reluctant government of the right – which had been resisting dishwashers – changed to a new government. The new Danish Environment Minister is a Green and immediately sent a signal saying that he was reversing Danish policy. Suddenly, there was a chink of light in the Council position, and Member States started to move towards Parliament’s position, which was extremely pleasing.

I asked to see my own minister in the Member State I know best. He said he had absolutely no time at all to see me. I tried again: same refusal. The third time, I was told I could have half an hour in about six weeks’ time. I finally got to see him and was told it was completely impossible to agree to this, so I retreated, dismayed and disappointed.

Meanwhile, keeping in touch with the Polish Presidency, we found things were moving very satisfactorily towards a majority in the Council, so we embarked on an informal first reading conciliation to try and explore whether we could find grounds for agreement on a single first reading. The Council worked very hard and we reached a final document – which is pretty much the document in front of you here – which recommends that both washing machine and dishwasher detergents be included.

We then waited with trepidation to see what Coreper would actually make of this document we had negotiated and, to our enormous pleasure, the message came back a few weeks ago that Coreper had agreed to Parliament’s position by 25 Member States to 2. To my amazement – and yours, Mr President – our coalition government changed its position (but without telling me), meaning that it was no longer against the proposal. So this was a happy situation.

Colleagues, I want to recommend the position that we have got from Parliament. It is a very good proposal and I hope that everybody can vote for this tomorrow.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI), Blue-card question.(HU) Mr President, I would like to thank Mr Newton Dunn for the report. I will support it with my vote. However, I have a question that pertains to the fact that this report currently concerns the reduction of the phosphate content of laundry detergents. When will there be a strategy that also covers, say, fertilisers, where we reduce the phosphate content of those, too? After all, the report does refer to fertilisers, but does not include them among substances that present a danger to waters. Now, in many cases, they do endanger water reserves, that is, groundwater reserves. So will there be such a strategy, and if yes, when will it be drafted?

 
  
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  Bill Newton Dunn, Blue-card answer. – Mr President, that was a very good question. In fact, this proposal, if approved, will reduce only a small amount of the phosphates that go into our waters. As you probably know, the largest proportion comes from the human body – partly from foods and drinks that we take in and then let out again. So this is a proposal that I hope the Commission will make; perhaps the Commissioner will address this point about how we can reduce other inputs of phosphates, including fertilisers. Let us see if the Commissioner answers the honourable Member’s question.

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission. (IT) Mr President, I would like to warmly thank Mr Newton Dunn for all the effort he has put in – together with the Hungarian and Polish Presidencies and all the shadow rapporteurs – on this work which affects all of our daily lives. These are some of the most important issues which a legislator must oversee in the best way possible.

As Mr Newton Dunn has already mentioned, this regulation aims at amending a regulation from 2004, the so-called detergent regulation, with the aim of harmonising the phosphate content in laundry detergents and household automatic dishwasher detergents across the European Union. That is why I used the phrase ‘daily life’.

Following the limitations outlined in the regulation, expenditure on phosphate removal from waste water treatment plants will fall, since the chemicals needed to remove phosphates will be required in smaller quantities. Furthermore, the EU will improve surface water quality in regions where tertiary treatment in waste water treatment plants is not, or is not yet, in place.

I am very pleased that Parliament and the Council support the Commission’s proposal to limit the phosphate content in household laundry detergents and I warmly welcome the amendment which will see the content expressed in ‘grams per standard washing dose’, since this will be an incentive to innovation and to more compact formulas being produced.

Parliament and the Council have also decided now to include limitations on the maximum phosphate content in household automatic dishwasher detergents to come into force from 1 January 2017. The Commission will present a report to examine whether the maximum content and the date of entry into force of the regulations regarding detergents for dishwashers are technically and economically achievable for all operators in the European Union without having negative repercussions for consumers or for the environment. On the basis of this report, and if deemed necessary, the Commission will be in a position to present a new proposal.

In a spirit of compromise and with the aim of allowing the adoption of the regulation at first reading, the Commission may accept the compromise text, although it does contain some content which moves some way from the original proposal.

In particular, the Commission regrets the fact that by now including maximum content limits for household automatic dishwasher detergents, the principles which encourage ‘better regulation’ and ‘evidence-based policy making’ have not been followed. Given this, we thought it was best to release a statement to this effect.

To conclude, the Commission can also accept all the compromise amendments and is happy that, thanks to the cooperative attitude of both institutions – Parliament and the Council – it has been possible to achieve an agreement at first reading.

Finally, I would just like to enter the debate which followed Mr Newton Dunn’s speech to confirm that the Commission’s proposal on fertilisers is planned for 2012 and that phosphates will not be the only or the main issue addressed in the proposal. An impact assessment is currently under way and will soon reach its conclusion.

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO Committee) on this subject, I have been intent on finding a balance between the needs of all the concerned parties. I, of course, am referring to consumers and the environment, but also to the requirements of industries linked to the various detergents.

The compromise that the rapporteur, Mr Newton Dunn, has achieved strikes this balance. Indeed, it was essential to postpone the phosphates limit for dishwasher detergents, as how could the removal of all phosphates be beneficial when it would cause people to have to run the dishwasher twice or even increase the water temperature? Excessive consumption or overheating of water is bad for the environment and for the consumer’s wallet; therefore, we must wait until we have found effective alternatives to phosphates.

Nevertheless, it is regrettable that the IMCO Committee’s opinions on the greenwashing ban and on labelling promoting the sustainable use of detergents have not been taken into account. It would have been beneficial to further raise consumer awareness with regard to the sustainable use of detergents in daily life, because there are still too many bad habits causing environmental damage.

 
  
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  Christa Klaß, on behalf of the PPE Group.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, water and phosphates form a close bond. I would like to begin with water: water, in both the literal and figurative sense, is an elixir of life for us. In the European Water Framework Directive and its related directives, we have created an instrument that can ensure good quality in our waters throughout Europe. Phosphate is also a central component of life without which nothing can exist in this world. It is a finite resource, however, and high-quality sources of phosphate are beginning to dry up.

The amendment of the detergents regulation and the ban on phosphates in household cleaning agents now achieves two targets. We are reducing consumption of this valuable resource, while at the same time preventing eutrophication in our waters. Water does not recognise borders. Water quality and water hardness do vary greatly in the different Member States, however, and, as a result, our measures must be variable too.

For example, there is a major phosphate problem in the Baltic Sea and in the Danube. Other countries have phosphate levels well under control thanks to good sewage treatment plants. Phosphate is filtered out and treated for reuse. Nonetheless, the old principle still applies: prevention is better than cure. Thus, if we can do without phosphates in detergents, we should do so. In my own country, Germany, there have been no phosphates in detergents for the last twenty years. This proves that phosphates are not essential.

There is a particular need for action in switching to phosphate-free detergents in countries with a poorly developed water treatment infrastructure, particularly in Southern and Eastern Europe. For this reason, I welcome the fact that we will be able to impose an EU-wide ban on phosphates in detergents, starting in 2013.

Acting on an initiative from Parliament, the Council now also accepts Parliament’s call for a ban on phosphates in dishwasher detergents from 2017 onwards. This blanket ban increases the pressure on businesses to innovate and will oblige them to develop good, phosphate-free dishwasher detergents. There are already good alternatives available which are marketed in several Member States with soft water. Thus, the new regulation also allows Member States to introduce a ban earlier than 2017. In comparison with other impact sources, such as human waste, the impact from dishwasher detergent is very low. In the interests of a sustainable economy, however, we must avoid the use of phosphates wherever possible.

I would like to express my thanks to the rapporteur, Mr Newton Dunn, for his excellent work, to the Polish Presidency for its commitment to seeing this issue through, and, of course, to the Commission for the good model provided. We have achieved a good result and can conclude the first reading with a clear conscience.

 
  
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  Åsa Westlund, on behalf of the S&D Group.(SV) Mr President, I am pleased that some of us decided to improve the European Commission’s proposal regarding the limited use of phosphorus compounds in detergents so that it also includes dishwasher detergents. We managed to get this through, even in the face of all those who did not believe that we would.

Some countries, including my own, have already gone ahead and introduced what, in practice, amounts to a ban on phosphates in both laundry detergents and dishwasher detergents. This is working extremely well. The rest of the EU is now following suit, and this of course will make an important contribution to reducing eutrophication in the Baltic Sea, for example. However, other water bodies and environments within the EU will also benefit from this legislation, as will the industry, which will have one common piece of legislation to follow instead of 27 different ones.

Our group would have preferred the levels to have been even lower and the entry into force to have been sooner, but we view the compromise that we have agreed with the Council as a major success. This legislation is a simple and effective contribution to reducing eutrophication. However, as has already been mentioned here this evening, the biggest contribution to eutrophication comes, of course, from agriculture. We definitely need to take more measures in this area. There are ways of reducing emissions, even from agriculture.

Finally, I would, naturally, like to thank everyone involved, particularly the rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs, for their excellent work.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (FR) Mr President, from 1 January 2017, phosphates will therefore be excluded from dishwasher detergents. These measures, which have been long awaited by many professionals and NGOs, will help to reinforce the legislative arsenal of those Member States who have already banned these powerful cleaning agents. Phosphates, which we know are very effective as water softeners, are also pollutants that disrupt the aquatic balance, thus contributing to the eutrophication of European waters.

I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to the rapporteur, Mr Newton Dunn, who wisely and intelligently, alongside the Polish Presidency and the Commission, was able to successfully argue that this regulation could legitimately be extended to include dishwasher detergents.

Nevertheless, I have two reservations with regard to this agreement that will cause me to abstain from the vote tomorrow. Please note that these views are my own and not those of my group. These two reservations seem to me to be symptomatic of the state of the spirit of Europe today. The first is that, in my opinion, this agreement does not sufficiently take into account the small and medium-sized enterprises who manufacture phosphates in particular. For example, not far from my home, near Liège, the company Prayon, which creates 780 direct jobs, is rightly concerned about the negative impact of this legislation on its business. This demonstrates that the tenet ‘think small first’ is sometimes difficult to put into practice.

My second reservation, which has already been raised and is clearly logical, is that as 90% of the eutrophication of our waters comes from sources other than dishwasher detergents, this pollution will continue with or without them.

We need to kick-start Europe: we should not legislate solely on minor issues as we have done here, but on the heart of the matter. It is clear that we must strive for an improved implementation of the directive on waste water treatment, but we must also work to tackle intensive farming and the improper disposal of food waste – the true culprits responsible for the deterioration of European waters.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(SV) Mr President, the Baltic Sea is grateful for this decision – it is Europe’s most sensitive sea. It is precisely the lack of phosphorus that stems algal growth and the addition of phosphorus to the Baltic Sea is particularly damaging – more so than in other seas. I would like to thank Mr Newton Dunn and the other shadow rapporteurs. Without you, we would never have succeeded in convincing the Council that we needed to take a decision to ban dishwasher detergents, too.

As many people are saying, the biggest problem is manure and non-mains waste water outlets, in other words, waste water outlets that are not connected to an operational treatment plant. However, this is a significant contribution, and we have also agreed that the Commission shall carry out a review of the use of phosphates as a whole. This is excellent. I would actually have liked us perhaps to have introduced this a little earlier, but the most important thing is that it will happen and it will be applied by the whole of the industry. I am certain that it will switch over much earlier than the date we have set here. In my country, we have already banned both dishwasher detergents and laundry detergents.

I would like to say at this point that this shows that we should have a little flexibility in the internal market. The fact that one country can go ahead and take measures has been very important in this very debate. It is thanks to this that we have been able to demonstrate that it is not expensive to phase out phosphates. On the contrary, it is extremely beneficial, and when people have seen that it works in practice, it is much easier for the whole of Europe to follow suit. I therefore think it is good that countries that want to introduce bans earlier than the date laid down in the legislation have the opportunity to do so.

Then there is the problem of the review of the alternatives. In this regard, we refer to REACH for its implementation. However, I would like to ask the Commission: as REACH has not been used once to prohibit a chemical, will you therefore use it here? If we have identified an alternative that is and should be prohibited, will you use REACH in earnest in order to prohibit it?

Up to now, REACH has only been used to adjust earlier bans, not to introduce new ones. That is something I would like to have an answer to and I await with interest the assessment of phosphate use. I also await with interest the initiative to prohibit industrial applications, too.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this regulation aims to reduce the maximum phosphate content in detergents to 0.5% in weight from 2013.

At the moment, that limit will only apply to domestic laundry detergents; the extension to household dishwasher detergents will be evaluated by the end of 2014. This is important because, as has already been stated by the Commissioner, this inclusion will only take place when technically and economically viable alternatives are available, which do not exist or are not easily available today.

Choosing to make this addition allows us to vote in favour because in fact – if the original approach proposed by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) had been maintained – it would simply have encouraged the consumer to use twice the recommended dose of detergent in the dishwasher, and so absolutely nothing would have changed for the environment and the consumer would have spent twice the amount to clean their dishes in the same way as before.

I agree with the Commission with regard to the inclusion of dishwasher detergents and industrial-use detergents. The Council has also agreed to extend the regulation of dishwasher detergents to a maximum of 0.3 grams from 2017, unless further amendments are made, and to a maximum of 0.5 grams for laundry detergents from 30 June 2013.

I believe the final test is therefore an excellent agreement, proper and discreet in terms of its affect on businesses, the consumer and the environment, and so our vote will certainly be in favour.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I would like to thank the Commission, the rapporteur and our shadow rapporteurs because I believe that we have reached an excellent compromise. It is very pragmatic. I feel it worth pointing out that, in the Water Framework Directive, we have produced a piece of legislation that will define our century, with the aim of bringing European waters to good ecological status by 2015. Of course, sector-targeted measures will also be required. It is also worth pointing out that we already have directives on drinking water and nitrates, as well as the EOS system, which will be the subject of a proposal for expansion from the Commission this year, and we are now taking a new direction with this directive containing limits for phosphates in dishwashers and detergents.

The situation varies in the different Member States. In some Member States, agriculture is the main polluter, while in others, the problem lies with industrial and municipal waste water, depending on water hardness, which is mainly dependent on topographical and other geological factors, as well as the development of sewerage systems and sewage treatment plants in the Member State in question. Nonetheless, the Commission has chosen the right approach in getting to the root of this problem. There is wide divergence in proportions. In some Member States, detergents only account for a couple of per cent, but in others, they account for much more.

We now have a compromise that is welcomed by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), particularly because we have also included dishwasher detergents. I believe that we are on the right path to meet our long-term goal of achieving high water quality. We expect that the Commission will continue with this approach, tackling in particular these various sources of pollution which are the main cause of most water problems, as in the agricultural and industrial sectors. We look forward to receiving proposals in this regard next year as well.

 
  
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  Vladko Todorov Panayotov (ALDE).(BG) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would first of all like to express my thanks to my colleague, Bill Newton Dunn, for all his work, and mainly for successfully sticking to his guns throughout the entire process and defending an excellent report. The high phosphate content in detergents has a proven, highly adverse impact on marine and river ecosystems.

The phosphates and phosphorous compounds contained in detergents for dishwashers and washing machines greatly stimulate the proliferation of algae in lakes, rivers and seas, resulting in the destruction of normal animal and plant life in these environments.

Some Member States have already managed to observe the irreversible damage from the use of phosphate detergents and have started to take legal measures to avert more disastrous consequences. The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety showed its concern by supporting the inclusion of detergents as well within the scope of the regulation.

I was at the Durban conference last week and would like to share with you the fact that the battle for a cleaner planet is strongly forging ahead. Against this background, I firmly believe that the European Union must again show strong resolve and leadership at a global level, creating ever-higher standards of environmental protection, as well as developing innovations and scientific research activities.

 
  
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  Karin Kadenbach (S&D).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, I, too, would like to thank the rapporteur for his perseverance because I believe it was very important that there should be no half measures here. If we had only considered washing machine detergents, then we would only have been dealing in half measures. This is because the use of dishwasher detergents has a significant impact on our water. This provision constitutes a first step in ensuring that, in the future, we will allow our waters room to breathe, rather than simply survive, so that excessively large fish and algae populations do not spell the end for this resource.

I would like to see the Commission taking a strict and consistent line in expanding this regulation to include industrial and institutionalised detergents because I believe there is a huge need for such a move. I know that this a complex and difficult area and we naturally need to consider how economic it is. Nonetheless, I believe that this is also our main problem in relation to Durban: you cannot negotiate with nature. We do not have very much time left in this area. This is why I would like to see us taking an urgent approach here. We must not lose sight of one thing: although we have banned phosphates from detergents, substitutes have been found. For this reason, we need to take a close look at these substitutes in the future. I am very grateful that we have a regulation that permits a great deal of flexibility, requiring attention to the question of different water hardness levels and cleaning grades. This should not, however, lead to the dilution of this regulation in any way.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Mr President, first of all, I would like to compliment the rapporteur, the shadow rapporteur and my colleague, Ms Klaß, for their good work in this regard.

I must say that I thought that the rapporteur, Mr Newton Dunn, gave a fascinating account of this whole topic. I enjoyed it and learned a lot from him. We all want to save the planet and obviously the quality of water is of immense importance to us. From my observations in my country, the quality of water has improved immensely over the last number of years, largely due to European Union policies, especially in relation to the use of fertilisers. In this regard, I think there is a challenge here for us to come up with phosphate-free formulations for dishwashers and washing machines, both in terms of domestic use, but also industrial use.

As Ms Klaß said, the quality of water varies – the hardness and the softness – right throughout the European Union. We are creating an opportunity for people to develop these products, but also creating a market by having deadlines by which they have to be introduced. I think that is a very important point.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Mr President, several EU countries have adopted measures to restrict the use of phosphates in detergents. Phosphates are synthetic substances that are found in detergents used in households, automatic washing machines and dishwashers and, once used, they end up in our water systems. Here they cause excessive growth of algae that produce toxins and kill fish and plants. The measures that have been taken by countries to restrict the use of phosphates are ineffective, however, because the washing machine and automatic dishwasher loads are covered by mutual recognition. A pragmatic way of solving this problem is to adopt regulations on the permitted amount of phosphorus in detergents used in washing machines and automatic washing machines in units by standard load. Adopting such harmonised rules would then help us to proceed in a uniform manner when dealing with third countries as well. This would protect us, the European Union, as a whole.

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission. (IT) Mr President, I would like to thank all the Members of Parliament who have taken part in the debate.

My office – together with officials from my Directorate-General, whom I thank for the work completed in the past few months – has taken into account all observations made, including on future activities in this important area.

Before closing the debate, I would like to underline the Commission’s commitment to a thorough re-examination of the proposed maximum limit for household automatic dishwashers by the end of 2014, with the aim of ensuring its applicability and effectiveness in practice or providing the opportunity to make amendments. I hope this will also respond to the fears expressed by Mr Ries, and should underline that the ‘fine model test’ principle will continue to be part of our policy work.

Thanks again to everyone for your cooperation, and let me add that phosphates are not a hazardous substance under the terms of the regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), and so I do not think that REACH is the appropriate instrument for banning or guaranteeing such substances. I repeat: there will be an assessment in 2014 and any new measure or additional amendment will then have to be reflected in the sectoral regulation.

On the other hand, if our studies show opportunities for further restrictions of other chemicals used in detergents or washing powders, these will be introduced by applying REACH.

 
  
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  President. – Mr Schlyter, I recognise your blue card but I am advised that we are not allowed to take them for the Commission. However, since I think it is quite a good idea – though I do not expect the Commissioner to reply – you can have your half minute’s say.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, I think the Commissioner misunderstood what I said. What I said was: I do not think that REACH is the best way to evaluate the alternatives. I was not speaking about phosphates; I was talking about the alternatives. It says in the recital that it should be used to evaluate the alternatives. I question the validity of REACH to do so, because so far, we have not restricted one single substance using the REACH system. So that was my question: if it is really appropriate and if it will work.

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission. (IT) I think we understand each other now. I agree that perhaps in the transfer from one language to another, there may have been some misunderstanding. Thank you in any case for your comment, we will take it into account and it seems that you and the Commission take the same position.

 
  
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  Bill Newton Dunn, rapporteur. – Mr President, we shall all call it the ‘Chichester precedent’ from now on.

It was nice suddenly to get a moment of controversy brought in at the end, because this debate has been extremely harmonious. Everybody agreed that we are doing the right thing, which is very satisfactory.

I have written down in my speaking notes ‘everybody wins’. We shall all hopefully have cleaner clothes and cleaner dishes. The single market has been preserved. We heard that some Member States are ahead while others are not, so we have a regulation that will apply universally throughout the single market, which is what we also want. And, of course, we shall have cleaner waters and cleaner rivers. The Baltic and the Danube will be cleaner as well.

I would like to thank everybody – including the staff, the interpreters and everybody who has been here – and say to the Commissioner that we look forward very much to his new proposals in 2012.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow (Wednesday, 14 December 2011).

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (ALDE), in writing.(GA) Eutrophication – excessive nutrients – greatly threatens the EU’s water standards and the Irish Environmental Protection Agency has said that phosphorus is the most dangerous nutrient to Ireland’s waterways.

Cleansing agents, which use phosphates to reduce the effects of water hardness, are the biggest cause of phosphorus pollution in European waters. They are the cause of ‘red’ and ‘green’ tides: algal blooms which destroy water standards in rivers and seas. At present, the removal of phosphorus compounds is a long and expensive process for waste water treatment units and not all Member States have the appropriate technology to do this.

To that end, I wholly welcome the content of this report in relation to reducing the phosphate level in detergents and washing powders as much as possible – and eliminating them if possible in the future. As a result of these restrictions that are to be implemented across the whole of the EU, the people of Ireland and the EU will have cleaner water and the threat from vast growths of algal blooms, river weed and water weeds which choke other aquatic life, will be reduced.

 
  
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  Rovana Plumb (S&D), in writing.(RO) The purpose of this proposal for a regulation is to reduce the amount of phosphorus used in detergents in domestic washing machines and to harmonise better the various national regulations. Phosphates end up in our water systems, rivers, streams, lakes and, particularly, in the Danube Basin and Baltic Sea. Phosphorus from household laundry detergents and automatic dishwashing machine (ADW) detergents make a significant contribution to the direct presence of phosphorus in water channels, thereby causing eutrophication. I welcome the broad acceptance that the maximum amount of phosphorus in household laundry detergents should be set at 0.5 g per dose for a standard wash load.

Expressing this limit in grams per load rather than as a percentage by weight, as initially proposed by the Commission, will allow laundry detergent manufacturers to produce more compact, concentrated formulas, which will not contain any greater amount of phosphorus than 0.5% by weight of a current ‘standard dose’, but where the phosphorus (from phosphonates) could form more than 0.5% of the total weight. Likewise, as regards the inclusion of household ADW detergents in the proposal, the limit should be set at 0.5% by weight.

 
  
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  Claudiu Ciprian Tănăsescu (S&D), in writing.(RO) I would like to welcome the outcome of the negotiations with the Council on the use of phosphates and other phosphorous compounds in household laundry detergents. I think that these measures for limiting the phosphorus content per dose of detergent must be linked, without fail, to improving not only the treatment of waste water, but also agricultural methods, since agriculture itself is a source of phosphorus for surface water.

The proposal made by the rapporteur for us to also focus our attention on the practicality of banning phosphates and the possible consequences such a ban would have for industrial detergents is particularly welcome if we really want to clean up Europe’s water. However, we must be realistic and acknowledge that this step is not possible at the moment, either from a technical or economic perspective.

Nevertheless, I think that there needs to be greater investment in identifying alternatives to using phosphates and other phosphorous compounds in detergents so that we can achieve the objectives of protecting the environment and public health more effectively.

However, I would like to point out that our efforts must not stop here and that we must promote this approach to limiting the phosphate content in detergents in non-EU countries as well.

 
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