Plastic Waste: a European strategy to protect the planet, defend our citizens and empower our industries

The strategy will protect the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for the future of Europe. There is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU and by taking the lead in this transition, we will create new investment opportunities and jobs. Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted. (…)

European Commission, 16/01/2018

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Plastic microbeads ban enters force in UK

Manufacturing ban means the tiny beads which harm marine life can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care product.

Plastic microbeads can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK, after a long-promised ban came into effect on Tuesday. The ban initially bars the manufacture of such products and a ban on sales will follow in July. (…) (theguardian.com, 9/01/2018)

The news

Medellin Declaration on Marine Litter in Life Cycle Assessment and Management

The Medellin Declaration on Marine Litter in Life Cycle Assessment and Management was developed during the Conferencia Internacional de Análisis de Ciclo de Vida en Latinoamérica, which took place from 12–15 June in Medellin, Colombia. The Declaration calls for an improved handling of plastic resources and is meant to encourage researchers and relevant stakeholders to develop new methodologies to address marine litter better within Life Cycle Assessments.

The declaration has been co-authored by various stakeholders present at the conference and has been revised in an online-consultation process until the 18th of July. The global life cycle community is invited to join the Medelling Declaration, which is available for signature on the FSLCI website at: https://fslci.org/medellindeclaration

Guido Sonnemann, Sonia Valdivia, The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, , Volume 22, Issue 10, pp 1637–1639

The article

Characterisation of plastic microbeads in facial scrubs and their estimated emissions in Mainland China

Plastic microbeads are often added to personal care and cosmetic products (PCCPs) as an abrasive agent in exfoliants. These beads have been reported to contaminate the aquatic environment and are sufficiently small to be readily ingested by aquatic organisms. Plastic microbeads can be directly released into the aquatic environment with domestic sewage if no sewage treatment is provided, and they can also escape from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) because of incomplete removal. However, the emissions of microbeads from these two sources have never been estimated for China, and no regulation has been imposed on the use of plastic microbeads in PCCPs. Therefore, in this study, we aimed to estimate the annual microbead emissions in Mainland China from both direct emissions and WWTP emissions. Nine facial scrubs were purchased, and the microbeads in the scrubs were extracted and enumerated. The microbead density in those products ranged from 5219 to 50,391 particles/g, with an average of 20,860 particles/g. Direct emissions arising from the use of facial scrubs were estimated using this average density number, population data, facial scrub usage rate, sewage treatment rate, and a few conservative assumptions. WWTP emissions were calculated by multiplying the annual treated sewage volume and estimated microbead density in sewage. We estimated that, on average, 209.7 trillion microbeads (306.9 tonnes) are emitted into the aquatic environment in Mainland China every year. More than 80% of the emissions originate from incomplete removal in WWTPs, and the remaining 20% is derived from direct emissions. Although the weight of the emitted microbeads only accounts for approximately 0.03% of the plastic waste input into the ocean from China, the number of microbeads emitted far exceeds the previous estimate of plastic debris (>330 μm) on the world’s sea surface. Immediate actions are required to prevent plastic microbeads from entering the aquatic environment.

Pui Kwan Cheung, Lincoln Fok, Water Research, Volume 122, 1 October 2017, Pages 53–61

The article

Government drops opposition to Bill banning microplastics

The Government has reversed a decision to oppose a Labour Party Bill banning the use of microplastics and microbeads in personal care items including scrubs, soaps, lotions and toothpastes.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney had originally planned to reject the Prohibition of microplastics Bill on the grounds that it could place Ireland in breach of EU Treaty articles on the free movement of goods and that it was flawed in definitions, enforcement and its “level of ambition”.

But in the Dáil on Thursday he told the Bill’s author, Cork East Labour TD Seán Sherlock, that the Government would not oppose the legislation but would probably abstain and allow it to proceed on the basis that “if and when we produce the Government’s legislative response to this whether in the foreshore Bill or in a separate piece of legislation after the work that needs to be done first”. (…) (irishtimes.com, 4/05/2017)

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Study to provide information supplementing the study on the impact of the use of “oxo-degradable” plastic on the environment”

Oxo-degradable or oxo-biodegradable plastics are conventional plastics, such as High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), commonly used in carrier bags, which also include additives which are designed to promote the oxidation of the material to the point where it embrittles and fragments. This may then be followed by biodegradation by bacteria and fungi at varying rates depending upon the environment. It has been debated for some time whether or not these additives perform in the way in which their manufacturers claim they will, whether they cause harm to the environment, and whether they effectively make plastics recycling more problematic. In November 2014, Members of the European Parliament proposed an outright ban on “oxo-degradable” plastics within the EU. Although this measure was blocked, an amendment to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, adopted in May 2015, commits the Commission to examine the impact of the use of oxo-degradable plastic on the environment; “By 27 May 2017, the Commission shall present a report to the European Parliament and to the Council, examining the impact of the use of oxo-degradable plastic carrier bags on the environment and present a legislative proposal, if appropriate.” This study has been undertaken in response to that request and compiles the requisite information regarding environmental impacts of this material, to the extent that such information is available, in order to form an opinion on any appropriate actions to be taken. The report presented here draws on the available scientific literature in order to investigate the claims from the industry with regard to biodegradation in different environments, and compatibility with current recycling processes. Input from key stakeholders—including the industry itself—has been used during the review to understand the impacts of the use of these materials.

European Commission, Final report, April 2017, 166 pages

The report

Australian draft plan aims to reduce marine debris

The Australian Government has issued a draft threat abatement plan with strategies to reduce marine debris. The plan specifically targets plastic litter.

It said marine debris, particularly plastic, is harmful to marine wildlife, with impacts caused through entanglement, ingestion and contamination.

The draft threat abatement plan for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine species follows an Australian Senate inquiry on the threat of marine plastic pollution in Australia, which released a report, Toxic tide: the threat of marine plastic, in April 2016. The draft plan said marine debris impacts have been documented for seabirds, marine turtles, cetaceans, sharks and other Australian marine wildlife, including many species listed as threatened.

The Federal Government has sought public comment on the draft plan and will then release a final plan. (…) (plasticsnews.com, 10/04/2017)

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