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Microplastic particles next to a 1-cent coin

Photo: Christian Ohde / IMAGO

Deep in the ocean, high in the mountains and also in human blood: Researchers have already discovered microplastics almost everywhere. Now the sale of microplastics in various areas is to be gradually banned in the European Union.

New rules from the EU Commission will prohibit the sale of microplastics as such in the future, as well as products to which microplastics have been added and which release them during use. This is according to a communication from the Brussels authority. The ban applies, for example, to granulate material on sports facilities, cosmetics such as scrubs or glitter, as well as toys and pesticides.

The measures are to be implemented gradually: The ban on micropearls and loose glitter, for example, is to apply in 20 days, in other cases the sales ban is not to come into force until the coming years.

The term microplastics refers to synthetic polymers that are difficult to degrade and are less than five millimeters in size. The particles accumulate in animals, including fish and shellfish, and can therefore also find their way into food. The new regulations are intended to prevent the release of about half a million tons of microplastics into the environment.

According to the Commission, the granules on artificial turf pitches and other sports facilities are the largest source of the release of added microplastics, and thus an environmental problem. The microplastic ban is therefore to come into force here after eight years - "to give the owners and operators of sports fields the time to switch to alternatives".

Products that are used at industrial sites or do not release microplastics during use are exempt from the sales ban, according to the information. However, their manufacturers would have to provide instructions on how to use and dispose of the product to avoid releases of microplastics. There are also certain exceptions for medicines as well as food and feed.