The European trade association Cosmetics Europe announced today an impressive decrease of 97.6% in the use of plastic microbeads1 for cleansing and exfoliating purposes in wash-off2 cosmetic and personal care products, noted between 20123 and 2017.
“In 2015, Cosmetics Europe recommended to its members to discontinue the use of plastic microbeads for cleansing and exfoliating purposes in wash-off cosmetic and personal care products. Today, we can fully appreciate the results of this recommendation. The 97,6% reduction strongly re-confirms the effectiveness of the voluntary initiative taken by our industry. Already last year, when we announced the progress in reduction of the use of plastics microbeads in cleansing and exfoliating wash-off cosmetics, we knew we were on the right track, but today we can be sure that proactive steps taken by our industry have delivered robust results.” – said John Chave, Director General of Cosmetics Europe.
“The 97.6% decrease, which represents over 4250 tons of plastic microbeads substituted and removed, could not have been achieved without substantial efforts undertaken by the industry to go forward with this pro-active, voluntary initiative. These included research, investment and reformulation – a lengthy, complex and costly process. The availability of suitable alternatives also played a critical role. The result achieved demonstrates systematic progress towards the industry’s objective of removing all plastic microbeads used for exfoliating and cleansing purposes in wash-off cosmetics and personal care products by 2020. We will keep up the good work with the hope of reaching our objective of zero plastic microbeads ahead of the deadline.” - commented Loïc Armand, President of Cosmetics Europe.
Protection of the aquatic environment is of utmost importance to the cosmetics and personal care industry. Therefore, building on voluntary initiatives already taken by individual member companies, in 2015 Cosmetics Europe published a recommendation to phase out by 2020 all plastic microbeads used for exfoliating and cleansing purpose in wash-off cosmetic and personal care products. The industry’s voluntary action has been taken regardless of the fact that plastic microbeads from cosmetic and personal care products represent a very small potential contribution to the overall marine plastic litter. A study conducted in 2012 estimated the potential contribution of the European cosmetics and personal care sector to be between 0.1 % and 1.5%4 of the total amount to marine plastic litter. Given the above-mentioned 97.6 % decrease, such potential minor contribution will also now have been further reduced significantly.
Cosmetics Europe continuously assesses the progress achieved and reports on the findings on the effectiveness of the European industry’s voluntary action. The results of the survey released in early 2017 already showed a rapid and substantial 82% reduction between 2012 and 2015 in the use of microbeads for exfoliating and cleansing purposes in wash-off cosmetics and personal care products.
For more details on the Cosmetics Europe 2018 data collection, read the FAQs here.
About the Cosmetics Europe recommendation
In view of the public concerns expressed over plastic debris in the marine environment, and given the availability of alternative materials, many individual member companies of Cosmetics Europe publicly stated that they will discontinue those uses in cosmetics that potentially may end up in the aquatic environment and for which alternatives exist. Building on this, in order to engage the whole of the Cosmetics Europe membership and facilitate sector wide best practice, on 21st October 2015, Cosmetics Europe recommended to its membership to discontinue, in wash-off cosmetic products placed on the market as of 2020, the use of synthetic, solid plastic particles used for exfoliating and cleansing (i.e. microbeads) that are non-biodegradable in the marine environment.
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A plastic microbead is any intentionally added, 5 mm or less, water insoluble, solid plastic particle used to exfoliate or cleanse in rinse-off personal care products.
 A wash-off product is a cosmetics product intended to be removed with water a short period of time after use e.g. in a bath or shower.
 Gouin et al, 2015, “Use of Micro-Plastic Beads in Cosmetic Products in Europe and Their Estimated Emission to the North Sea Environment” found that in 2012 4360 tons were used.