ECHA withdraws its intention to restrict Oxo-degradable plastic under REACH

As part of its Plastics Strategy, the European Commission requested the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to present an Annex XV restriction dossier concerning the oxo-degradable plastics under the REACH Regulation.
Pixabay, Andrew Martin

In early November 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation already published a statement of 150 organisations calling for a global ban on oxo-degradable plastic packaging given the impacts of the fragmentation on the environment leading to more micro-plastics pollution and promoting the idea that materials and products should be designed in line with the circular economy principles.

According to the staff working document accompanying the Communication on the “European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy”, the so-called oxo-degradable plastics do not biodegrade in open environment. These materials are to be considered to rather fragment in tiny pieces exacerbating the micro-plastics accumulation in soils. There is no proof of oxo-degradable plastics capacity to biodegrade in the marine environment. The additives used only mimic biodegradation. Those additives make the fragmentation process easier and quicker without leading to biodegradation. The potential toxic effects on soils of any residual additives have been identified as a concern by some commentators. However, more research on this topic is needed.

Some Member States have already taken action to restrict the use of oxo-degradable plastics:

  • Spain, France and Italy already have a ban on oxo-plastics;
  • Belgium, Hungary and Bulgaria have legislation that forbids oxo-plastics to claim that they are biodegradable;
  • Sweden and United Kingdom are studying the issue and considering restrictive measures.

Based on the Commission’s request, ECHA was expected to submit the restriction proposal by 19 July 2019, but the Agency withdrew its intention on 8 May 2019.

The withdrawal occurred pursuant to a Commission’s request due to the upcoming adoption of the “Directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment”, which already aims at restricting the placing on the EU market of any product made from oxo-degradable plastics 2 years after the Directive enters into force.

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