The new regulation includes a ban on the sale of glitter or microbeads and gives eight years to eliminate sports fields with rubber substrate

EU rules to control microplastics enter into force due to their environmental impact

Partículas de microplásticos - FOTO/OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
Microplastic particles - PHOTO/OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

On 25 September, Commission Regulation EU 2023/2055 was published in the Official Journal of the European Union, which contains a series of bans on the manufacture and marketing of products considered to be microplastics.

The new regulation, which will enter into force 20 days after publication, i.e. on 15 October, partly amends the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation and, unlike a European directive, which must be transposed into national legislation, applies directly in all member states.

The aim of this regulation is to reduce the emission of microplastics in everyday products in order to protect the environment. The European Union estimates that the newly adopted restrictions could prevent the release of around half a million tonnes of microplastics in the coming years.

The new legislation follows the European Commission's request to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for a report on the risk assessment of microplastics added to products.

The report concludes that these microplastics intentionally added to certain products end up being released into the environment in an uncontrolled way and recommended measures to restrict them.

El nuevo Reglamento prohíbe la venta de purpurina - PEXELS/ALENA SHEKHOVTCOVA
New regulation bans the sale of glitter - PEXELS/ALENA SHEKHOVTCOVA

The EU considers synthetic polymer particles smaller than five millimetres that are organic, insoluble and resistant to degradation to be microplastics. Such particles are found in many products such as glitter, facial scrubs and other types of cosmetics, and in the rubber substrate of artificial turf sports fields.

The Regulation establishes two stages for the implementation of the measures: products such as glitter glue and cosmetics containing microbeads will be banned immediately; manufacturers of certain cosmetics such as make-up, lip and nail products will have a period of between 4 and 12 years to modify the composition of their products and bring them into line with the new regulation.

Artificial turf with rubber substrate

A special case is that of artificial turf sports fields with a substrate of rubber particles. During the drafting of the Regulation, it was initially suggested that a marketing ban with a transitional period of three years could be introduced if risk management measures were implemented to ensure that the annual release of micro-particulates would not exceed 7 grams per square metre.

However, the European Chemicals Agency's Risk Assessment Committee considered that "infill material for use in synthetic turf sports surfaces is the largest contributor in terms of microplastic use in products, as well as the largest source of environmental emissions". The Centre doubted that the proposed risk management measures would ensure acceptable emissions.

El campo de fútbol José Antonio Pérez en Lo Pagán estrena nuevo césped
Artificial turf pitch with new biodegradable substrate in Lo Pagán (Murcia) - PHOTO/ARCHIVE

In the end, the European Commission increased the transitional period for the marketing ban to eight years, "in order to ensure that more existing synthetic sports surfaces using this product can reach the natural end of their useful life".

In practice, this means that in eight years' time, all artificial turf sports fields will have to dispense with rubber microparticles and replace them with another substrate that is biodegradable and environmentally friendly.

In fact, such environmentally friendly solutions are already available on the market that offer the same or better characteristics in terms of athlete performance and safety.