MEPs want stricter rules to reduce plastic pellet losses

Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0 Author: maldeseine
Plastic "nurdle" pellets on a beach in southwest France.

The Parliament has recently adopted a proposal to urgently address the issue of plastic pellet losses in the supply chain, setting a goal of zero losses. 

The Commission’s 2021 action plan, “Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil,” underscores the pressing need to reduce the number of microplastics released intentionally or unintentionally into the environment by 30% by 2030. In 2021, a staggering 57 million tonnes of pellets were produced and handled in the EU, with an estimated 52,140 to 184,290 tonnes of pellets lost in the environment in 2019.

MEPs have adopted their first reading position on the proposed regulation to prevent plastic pellet losses and reduce microplastic pollution. The new rules would require all entities handling plastic pellets to take measures to avoid losses, and if any losses occur, they would have to take immediate action to contain and clean up spills. 

“This regulation comes at a time where it is increasingly important to raise awareness and take measures against microplastic pollution. We have all seen the importance of stricter rules, especially after the disaster that happened in Galicia, but plastic pellet pollution goes beyond that. I hope in the next mandate we will be able to negotiate a strong, prevention-based regulation that will lead to a significant decrease of plastic pellet pollution, which poses such a risk for human health and the environment,” said Rapporteur João Albuquerque (S&D, PT).

The regulation would require economic operators to establish a risk assessment plan for each installation that handles over 1000 tonnes of plastic pellets annually. MEPs want this measure to apply two years after the regulation enters into force for large enterprises, three years for medium-sized enterprises and five years for small enterprises. They also want the plans to include information on the number of tonnes of plastic pellets handled per year and the chemical nature of each polymer contained in plastic pellets on-site. 

Additionally, MEPs propose that all storage and transport containers carrying plastic pellets should be labelled with a specific pictogram and information linked to their danger, potential to harm the environment, and the need to avoid release and collect any spillage.

The new Parliament will follow up on the file after the 6-9 June European elections.

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