EU to Force Beauty Companies to Pay to Reduce Microplastic Pollution


Beauty companies will have to pay more to clean up microplastic pollution after EU negotiators struck a new deal to treat sewage.

Under draft rules that follow the “polluter pays principle,” companies that sell medicines and cosmetics will have to cover at least 80 percent of the extra costs needed to get rid of tiny pollutants that are dirtying urban wastewater. Governments will pay the rest, members of the bloc said, in an effort to prevent vital products from becoming too expensive or scarce.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, the bloc’s environment commissioner, said the steps would safeguard citizens from harmful discharges of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics that end up in water bodies. “This will make our water cleaner and protect our health.”

The rules, which have been agreed upon by the European parliament and council of Europe but not yet formally adopted, bulk up requirements to remove nutrients from water and set new standards for micropollutants. They also broaden the areas covered by the law.

By 2035 EU member states will have to remove organic matter from urban wastewater before releasing it into the environment in all communities with more than 1,000 people. By 2045 they will have to remove nitrogen and phosphorus in all treatment plants covering more than 10,000 people. They will also have to add an extra step to remove a “broad spectrum” of micropollutants, according to the European parliament.

Governments will also have to monitor sewage for microplastics, “forever chemical” per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and key health indicators like antimicrobial resistance.

But member states have been slow to enforce existing rules to treat sewage. Last month, the European Commission referred Spain to the European court of justice for failing to comply with existing wastewater rules in 225 communities.

Nils Torvalds, a Finnish MEP with the liberal Renew grouping who was in charge of the proposal, said: “The deal we reached today is a breakthrough for significantly improved water management and wastewater treatment standards in Europe, especially with new rules on removing micropollutants coming from medicines and personal care products. We have ensured that the impact of this legislation on the affordability of medicines will not be disproportionate.”

The agreement is set to increase the divide between environmental protection in the EU and UK since Brexit.

By Ajit Niranjan

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