Claiming to be microplastic-free already, the letter signatories [1] say the upcoming legislation does not go far nor fast enough “in its current format,” largely due to “exceptionally long transition periods”.

Under the current proposal, transition periods would vary from four years for rinse-off products to 12 years for certain makeup products. Encapsulated fragrances would benefit for a five to eight year delay, and leave-on cosmetic products would have six years to adapt.

“Unnecessarily lenient”

The main arguments supporting these transition periods are the lack of alternatives, the cost of reformulation and the potential impact on how the products perform. A list of claims that the signatories of the open letter deem irrelevant.

The exceptionally long transition periods in the current proposal, especially 12 years for products such as make-up, remain at odds with the principles laid down in ongoing European Commission initiatives and therefore have no justification,” they say.

They believe the legislation as it is proposed now is too flexible unnecessarily lenient since alternatives already exist.

It is clear that part of the industry doesn’t want to change,” says Sjoerd Trompetter, co-founder of Dutch personal care brand Naïf. “We have been making microplastic-free products for ten years. With great alternatives and without complaints. So it’s not that hard!” he adds.

7kg of plastics every minute

However, there is an urgent need to act, the microplastic-free brands say.

Weleda quotes recent studies that found that 9 out of 10 care products still include microplastics. They contend that in Europe alone, 7kg of plastics from cosmetics are flushed into the environment every minute. Microplastics have been found in the human blood, lungs and even the placenta.

We urge the European Commission to implement decisive, consistent, and rapid introduction of microplastic-free legislation as a matter of urgency. We feel there is no justification for the exceptionally long 12-year transition period when certified natural cosmetics brands such as Weleda show that working without using microplastics at all has always been possible,” says Nataliya Yarmolenko, Chief Commercial Officer at Weleda.

The request would have the support of public opinion. Indeed, more than 52.000 people across Europe have already signed a petition by the Plastic Soup Foundation to ban all microplastics in cosmetics and personal care products.

The open letter signatories also underpin their request on a recent study by Provenance also shows that 9 out of 10 shoppers believe sustainability and ethics-related considerations are important when buying beauty and wellness products. [2]

In 2015, Cosmetics Europe had recommended manufacturers to discontinue the use of synthetic, solid and non-biodegradable plastic particles used for exfoliating and cleansing in wash-off cosmetic products placed on the market as of 2020. However, the use of plastic polymers in the cosmetics industry is far from being limited to these products. Nevertheless, the development of alternative solutions may be complex, as in the case of encapsulation, and the need for innovation is growing urgently.