At the beginning of 2018, the European Commission adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics – the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. Besides building foundations for a more circular plastic economy of the EU, the strategy also sets to tackle microplastic pollution.
Meeasures range from banning microplastics in products, to reducing release of microplastics from textiles and evaluating how efficient existing EU laws (Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive) are when it comes to capturing and removing microplastic from waste water, to name just a few.
Washing machines and washing machine filters (such as our PlanetCare filters) are not directly mentioned in the new plastic strategy as a potential solution for the microplastic (and especially the plastic microfiber) issue.
Interestingly, the EU already regulates which household washing machines can be sold in the EU with the so-called Ecodesign and energy labelling requirements. These requirements cover, among other things, energy efficiency, water consumption, product labelling and noise emissions. For now, microplastic emissions are not among these requirements.
Luckily, the European Commission started to review these requirements and is currently assessing the impacts of potential regulation change. In the assessment the European Commission proposed several options – one of which is to further increase the ambition of Ecodesign requirements. The question, however, is whether this increase and the assessment itself are ambitious enough, since no proposed option (again) tackles the microplastic issue.
That is exactly why feedback from stakeholders plays a significant role in such initiatives.
In their feedback, the swiss NGO OceanCare stressed out that the document is not aligned with the new EU plastic strategy and that a “new requirement relating to a criteria for filters to prevent the release of microfibres into the waterways should be included” in the new Ecodesign requirements.
Will the European Commission consider and include OceanCare’s proposal in their assessment? And most importantly, will (and how long before) microplastic filters become an integral part of future household washing machines sold across the EU?