The European Commission proposed to revise the current Directive and introduced the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) principle, attributing the entire financial burden of upgrading urban wastewater treatment plants to only two sectors, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. However, the impact assessment accompanying the proposal does not provide clear scientific reasoning as to why the cosmetics sector has been chosen.
Cosmetics Europe would like to reiterate its concern regarding the compliance of the proposed EPR schemes with the polluter pays principle stated in Article 191(2) of the TFEU, when it comes to the EPR obligations. The European cosmetics sector fully supports the overall objectives of the EPR scheme and is ready to take its responsibility and duly contribute to the upgrade of urban wastewater treatment plants. Nevertheless, it is of utmost importance that any financial contribution is based on the principle of a fair distribution of the burden between all polluters. In this respect, we welcome the recognition by the ENVI Committee of the fact that micropollutants can come from different sources. However, we believe that a sector-based approach is not fit for the purpose of the Directive and a defined list of micropollutants would be a better means to identify those companies whose products contain such substances and who need to contribute to EPR schemes.
Cosmetics Europe also considers that the revision of the Directive should address the aquatic pollution and not threaten the safe use of chemicals. We are concerned that the definition of micropollutants has not been significantly improved by the ENVI Committee. This definition remains based on criteria that are too broad. This would result in the inclusion within the scope of the definition of several substances, such as biodegradable substances, that do not pose a problem in the current urban wastewater treatment systems. In this respect, Cosmetics Europe welcomes the effort by the ENVI committee to exonerate from the EPR obligations those producers who can demonstrate that products, or substances in products they place on the market are biodegradable. Nevertheless, the exoneration criterion put forward is too restrictive and some substances that are already removed through the first three treatment stages would still be considered as micropollutants.
Cosmetics Europe regrets that the ENVI Committee did not tackle the provisions on producers’ contributions. According to the legislative proposal, financial contribution for each producer should be determined based on the amount of the product placed on the market. However, we believe that EPR fees should rather be based on the volume of micropollutants contained in the products placed on the market. If not, this would lead to unequal treatment of producers as the amount of the product is not directly proportional to the volume of micropollutants that a product might contain. This is for instance the case for diluted and concentrated products.
The European cosmetic sector is, therefore, overall concerned with the workability of the proposed system which is not based on sound scientific justifications and does not ensure fairness for economic operators.