Reducing microplastic pollution from plastic pellet losses

Briefing 19-04-2024

Once dispersed in the environment, microplastic particles under 5 mm in size are extremely difficult to remove and very persistent. Today, they are present in the air, soil, freshwater, seas, oceans, plants and animals, and in several components of the human diet. Human exposure to microplastic particles is therefore widespread, raising concerns about potential health impacts. The EU has committed to addressing microplastic pollution in two action plans –on the new circular economy and on zero pollution for air, water and soil – both of which are part of the European Green Deal. On 16 October 2023, the European Commission proposed a regulation to tackle microplastic pollution resulting from losses of plastic pellets – the industrial raw materials used to make plastic products. These losses are the third largest source of unintentional microplastic releases into the EU environment. The proposal would apply to all economic operators handling plastic pellets in the EU in quantities above 5 tonnes per year, as well as to EU and non-EU carriers transporting plastic pellets within the EU. It would set requirements for best handling practices, mandatory certification and self-declaration, and provide for the development of a harmonised methodology to estimate losses. Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), responsible for the file, adopted its legislative report on 19 March 2024. The text awaits a vote during the second April 2024 plenary session, with a view to establishing Parliament's position at first reading. First edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.