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European Commission Issues Current Thinking on Microplastics in Products

SafeGuardSHardgoods, Softlines, Personal and Protective Equipment, Toys and Juvenile Products, Electrical & Electronics, Automotive19 Oct 2023

SG 137/23

The European Commission has issued its current thoughts and additional information on the implementation of the new law on microplastics.

In September 2023, the European Union (EU) published Commission Regulation (EU) 2023/2055 to restrict synthetic polymer microparticles (‘microplastics’) as substances on their own or intentionally added to mixtures (the Regulation). The new law will be implemented in phases from October 17, 2023. (SafeGuardS 126/23)

To assist stakeholders with the law, the European Commission has announced on its website the current thinking on the application of the microplastics restriction to plastic glitter on its own and in products. It also contains additional details before the planned Q&A document is made available before the end of 2023. It is interesting to note that a general rule is applied to glittered articles to determine whether the decorative function of the article is the main (primary) or secondary function.

Highlights of the current thinking and other details include:

  • Plastic glitter on its own (loose plastic glitter) is considered as a mixture under REACH and is in the scope of the restriction
  • Only certain types and uses of glitter are concerned as of October 17, 2023, depending on their 1) composition, 2) use and 3) whether they are loose, trapped in or attached to an object (products already on the market can continue to be sold until stocks are exhausted):
    • Glitter made of non-biodegradable, insoluble plastic is covered (biodegradable, soluble, natural or inorganic glitter are not regarded as microplastics)
    • The sale ban applies to non-biodegradable, insoluble plastic glitter for uses that do not have a transitional period (e.g., art and crafts, toys and textiles with certain derogations)
    • Unless loose plastic glitter is biodegradable or soluble, those without a transitional period are prohibited as of October 17, 2023 (e.g., art and crafts and toys):
      • This prohibition does not apply if plastic glitter, when used, is trapped in a solid matrix (e.g., glitter glue), solid films (e.g., paints and inks), solid objects (e.g., inside jewelry or spray can caps), or completely contained (e.g., in snow globes)
      • The sale ban on plastic glitter affixed to objects as of October 17, 2023, applies to glittered decorative objects where glitter detaches during normal use (e.g., Christmas decorations or party hats)
  • Applying a general rule for glitter affixed to an article as this is dependent on whether glitter is an integral part of that article (out of scope) or not (glitter in scope):
    • Glitter is always regarded as an integral part of the article for glittered articles where the decorative function is secondary (e.g., clothing, shoes and curtains)
    • Glitter can only be considered as an integral part of the article for glittered articles where the decorative function is the main function (purely decorative function) of the article if the glitter does not detach during normal end use, including storage (e.g., textiles in certain art and craft kits, toy/party hats and Christmas decorations):
      • A glittered article is considered as a combination of an article (article without glitter) and a mixture (glitter itself) if glitter detaches from the article during normal end use (although ban applies to the glitter, the entire glittered article cannot be sold e.g., Christmas decorations and party hats)
  • Although products containing plastic glitter/microplastics for uses other that those specified in paragraph 6 of the Regulation can continue to be sold if they have been placed on the market prior to October 17, 2023, it is important to note the following:
    • If a large container of glitter bought before October 17, 2023, is repackaged into a new product, the new product is required to be placed on the market before this date in order to continue to be sold

The Commission is expected to issue a detailed Q&A document by the end of 2023 to assist stakeholders with the implementation of the Regulation.

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