EESC insists on tackling microplastic pollution from plastic pellets

Microplastic pollution has emerged as a critical environmental concern, with its detrimental impact reaching far and wide across ecosystems and human health. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) acknowledges the urgency of addressing the issue and supports the European Commission’s proposal to regulate microplastic pellet operations and emissions. At the EESC, the February plenary adopted a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on preventing plastic pellet losses to reduce microplastics pollution.

Microplastics, defined as solid plastic particles smaller than 5 mm, pose a significant threat to the environment and public health. They can enter the air, water and soil, persisting for long periods and accumulating in living organisms. Plastic pellets are one of the largest sources of unintentional microplastic pollution, used for producing plastics goods. Tackling plastic pellet losses requires a multifaceted approach that addresses different sources and stages of microplastic pollution.

Rapporteur, András Edelényi, said: “Let’s create substantial information based on microplastic emissions, impact and prevention and intervention areas in order to direct and focus our resources to mitigate them in the most efficient way.”

The EESC emphasises the need for standardised methodologies to track and estimate microplastic pellet losses along the supply chain. By developing robust monitoring systems, policymakers can gauge progress towards environmental targets and identify areas requiring intervention. Additionally, addressing secondary microplastics from various sources is a crucial step in comprehensive pollution mitigation.

One of the challenges in regulating microplastic pollution lies in balancing environmental protection with socio-economic feasibility. The EESC recognises the importance of tailored regulations that consider the capacity of smaller enterprises, while ensuring significant reductions in pellet emissions. By offering lighter requirements for micro and small enterprises and promoting awareness and training across the workforce, policymakers can foster compliance without unduly burdening businesses.

Maria Nikolopoulou, co-rapporteur of the opinion, said: "The regulation on pellets is a good first step and we hope to see soon a proposal for the rest of the microplastic pollutants such us tires, paint, textiles, geotextiles and washing capsules!"

Furthermore, international cooperation is essential for addressing microplastic pollution, particularly when it comes to non-EU market imports and maritime transport. Harmonising regulations and sharing best practices with international partners can create a level playing field for all stakeholders and minimise pollution hotspots along global supply chains.

Investment in research is paramount for addressing microplastic pollution. The EESC emphasises evidence-based policymaking and calls for increased efforts to understand the impacts of microplastics on human and ecological health. By filling knowledge gaps and developing comprehensive risk assessments, policymakers can formulate targeted interventions to reduce microplastics pollution’s harmful effects and conduct mid-term reviews to ensure the right measures are taken.

In conclusion, the EESC’s support for regulating microplastic pellet operations reflects a concerted effort to address one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. By adopting a comprehensive approach that combines regulatory measures, scientific research and international cooperation, policymakers can pave the way for a cleaner, healthier future for all.

Through collaborative efforts and sustained commitment, we can turn the tide against microplastic pollution and safeguard the planet for generations to come.(ks)