ECHA has assessed the health and environmental risks posed by intentionally added microplastics and has concluded that an EU-wide restriction would be justified. If adopted, the restriction could result in a reduction in emissions of microplastics of about 400 thousand tonnes over 20 years.
The definition of microplastic is wide, covering small, typically microscopic (less than 5mm), synthetic polymer particles that resist (bio)degradation. The scope covers a wide range of uses in consumer and professional products in multiple sectors, including cosmetic products, detergents and maintenance products, paints and coatings, construction materials and medicinal products, as well as various products used in agriculture and horticulture and in the oil and gas sectors.
TerraCycle and Johnson & Johnson Vision have launched the ACUVUE Contact Lens Recycle Programme, the UK's first free nationwide programme allowing consumers to recycle contact lenses and their packaging after use. The partnership with Boots Opticians and other independent stores will provide over 1,000 public drop-off locations for the waste across the UK.
Hamleys and Amazon took the Frootiputti slime toy off their shelves after the product failed safety tests for boron, a substance that can impair fertility. The test, by consumer group WHICH?, found the product had four times the EU limit for boron in toys.
EU member approved the proposal to restrict the phthalates DEHP, DBP, DIBP and BBP in articles. The four phthalates are on the REACH candidate list of SVHCs for their reprotoxic as well as endocrine disrupting properties. Under the proposal they would be restricted to a concentration equal to or below 0.1% by weight individually or in any combination in any plasticised material in articles used by consumers or those used in indoor areas. The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers now have three months to scrutinise the measure and the restriction will then be published in the EU’s Official Journal and will apply 18 months after the entry into force to products produced both in and outside of the EU.
In order to help consumers make informed choices for safer products while increasing pressure to substitute substances of concern, ECHA is going to establish a new database on the presence of hazardous chemicals in articles by the end of 2019 for waste treatment operators and consumers. The database will comprise information submitted by companies producing, importing or selling articles that contain Candidate List substances. Companies need to submit this information by the end of 2020. The work is based on the revised waste framework directive that entered into force in July 2018. It is part of the EU’s waste legislation package, contributing to the EU's circular economy policy.
The World Economic Forum recently published research suggesting consumers in a few key emerging market producer countries (Indonesia and Brazil) and importing countries (China and India) together account for 40% of global consumption of the four commodities most associated with tropical deforestation—soy, beef, palm, and wood products. The authors project that by 2025 demand for these commodities within these four countries could increase by 43%, resulting in forest areas equivalent to the size of Nigeria being cut down every. Increasing demand for meat and calorie-rich foods, regulatory changes, and shifts in constraints for domestic production will all be key factors in fueling demand in these emerging market economies.
In an EU/EEA-wide project of ECHA’s Enforcement Forum, inspectors found hundreds of consumer products with illegal amounts of restricted chemicals. Every fifth toy inspected contained high levels of restricted phthalates.
European Commission releases its 2017 report on the Rapid Alert System for dangerous products. In 2017, 'toys' was notified as product with the most risk (29%), followed by 'motor vehicles' (20%), and 'clothing, textiles and fashion items' (12%).
The majority of dangerous products notified in the system came from outside the EU. China is the number one country of origin, but the number of alerts remains stable at 53% (1,155) in 2017, same as the year before. The Commission continues to cooperate closely with Chinese authorities, working together to discuss specific cases and implement actions, such as exchange of good practices. Dangerous products of European origin accounted for 413 notifications (26%).
The toy industry has assured consumers that risk from chemicals in secondhand plastic toys is low, following a study in the UK that revealed the presence of hazardous elements. Research carried out at the University of Plymouth tested 200 toys from schools, charity shops and family homes for the presence of: antimony; arsenic; barium; cadmium; chromium; lead; mercury; selenium; and bromine (as a proxy for brominated flame retardants).
US chain store Target has removed two fidget spinner models from sale, after a study from NGO the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) study found they contained high levels of lead. The federal legal limit is 100 parts per million (ppm) for lead in children’s products, but fidget spinners are classified by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) as general use rather than as children’s products. They are only considered toys if labelled age 12 and under.
China’s National Consumer Product Safety Commission has recently consulted on a draft list of substance restrictions in consumer products. The list combines a number of existing Chinese standards and, where no domestic standard exists, it refers to restrictions based on EU and other foreign legislation. The draft is similar to the consumer restrictions set out in REACH Annex XVII - includes 103 chemicals and proposes limit values for their use in consumer products, such as toys, textiles, coatings, paints, decoration materials and furniture.
Unilever US has announced plans to provide consumers with information about specific fragrance ingredients, used in its personal care products. The company has also announced plans to launch a webpage called What’s In Our Products. This will provide additional information, including its approach to developing safe products, explanation of ingredient types and answers to common questions on SmartLabel. NGOs said it’s game-changing for the personal care industry but criticised the plan for not including a full list of all fragrance ingredients.
Three NGOs in US have filed a lawsuit to compel the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to finalise a rule banning five phthalates in children’s products. The commission issued a proposed rule in late 2014 to ban five phthalates in children’s toys, at levels greater than 0.1%. They were diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP); di-n-pentyl phthalate (DnPP); di-n-hexyl phthalate (DnHP); dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP); and diisononyl phthalate (DINP). The CPSC was required to publish the final rule within 180 days of the CHAP’s report on 14 January 2015. But the lawsuit states that the agency has missed this deadline by almost two years.
Greenpeace have released a scorecard on 14 companies' progress on eliminating deforestation from their supply chains. Nestle and Ferrero scored the highest and Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson and PepsiCo scored the lowest. Greenpeace has encouraged these companies to work with an implementation partner to recognise their commitments as well as seek third party verifications on their progress.
The think tank Innovation Forum held a two-day conference in Washington DC entitled “How business can tackle deforestation” attended by 160 representatives from companies, NGOs and investors. Whilst multiple major consumer goods companies have declared their commitments to achieving zero deforestation in their supply chains many others have raised concerns over the term and what the policy actually means in practice.
Rainforest Alliances’ recent position paper, ‘Halting Deforestation and Achieving Sustainability’ warned that zero deforestation commitments may not be enough to protect the world’s forests, due to two reasons. Firstly, though many major companies have signed up for these commitments, many other producers and buyers will not. These companies will continue to rely on deforestation to produce their goods, unless a way is found to address underlying issues, such as growing worldwide demand for forest products. Secondly, focusing solely on deforestation risks drawing attention away from other business practices within the commodities supply chain which may deserve equally urgent attention e.g. water scarcity and labour laws. In addition, the use of ‘zero deforestation’ as a catchphrase is problematic because there remains no clear agreement over what the term means. Rainforest Alliance emphasises the need for greater education, auditing and transparency so that consumers know the impact of what they are buying and are able to trust companies’ sustainability claims. Though a commendable step in the right direction, ‘zero deforestation’ commitments need to be backed up with comprehensive action plans if they are to deliver credible results.
For decades, mahogany, ebony, rosewood and other rare tropical hardwoods have been extensively logged to produce valuable wood products, particularly guitars and other instruments. Increasingly aware of the impacts to forests and communities from over-harvesting, many instrument manufacturers have taken steps to make their supply chains more sustainable. Now, musicians are joining the call to make sure guitars and other instruments are made from legal, sustainably sourced wood. Last week the Environmental Investigation Agency and REVERB released a video featuring artists such as Jason Mraz and Michael Franti urging consumers to find out where their wood comes from.
A new report by Forest Trends, a US based NGO, found out that around five football fields of tropical forest have been illegally cleared every minute between 2000 and 2012, which losses have been driven by consumer demand for beef, leather and timber in Europe and US. The values of this trade in commodities including timber, leather, beef, soy and palm oil, accounting for $61bn a year. The majority of the illegal deforestation for commercial agriculture has been in Brazil and Indonesia. The local governments are lack of capacity to enforce laws to against illegal logging. Report found that licences and permits to cut the trees are often acquired through corruption. Authors believe that consumer countries in EU could have done more to tackle the problem. Strong regulations rather than voluntary actions is the better solution. The biggest concern for campaigners now is the spread of illegal deforestation to new countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Are we actually making progress on preventing deforestation? Q&A with Mongabay.com founder Rhett Butler
The founder of the independent news site dedicated to rainforests points to a slowing deforestation rate in Brazil, new initiatives extending our capacity to monitor forests and zero deforestation commitments from the private sector as reasons for optimism. He thinks that most consumers aren’t aware of the issues to the extent it affects their purchasing decisions, except in particularly egregious cases. And he says that NGO campaigns targeted at brands are effective in that these brands are more likely to change their policies quickly than governments and consequently the brands will push governments to reward their commitments by forcing the laggards to catch up.
Cutting down on cutting down: How Brazil became the world leader in reducing environmental degradation
A recently published paper in the journal Science assesses how Brazil managed to reduce its deforestation rates by 70% over the course of a decade and points to a three-stage process in which bans, better governance in frontier areas and consumer pressure on companies worked, if fitfully and only after several false starts. While the Brazilian Forest Code from the mid-1990s mandated that 80% of farm land had to be set aside as a forest reserve, deforestation rates reached their highest as the code was not enforced. However, from 2005 Brazil’s President Lula da Silva made halting deforestation a priority which led to better cooperation between enforcement agencies and public prosecutors. At the same time, improvements in the efficiency of cattle breeding, a fall in export earnings from soybeans and an NGO campaign to boycott Brazilian soybeans caused deforestation to plummet. Then in 2009, once soybean expansion resumed, the government focused its efforts on the counties with the worst deforestation rates and banned them from getting cheap credit until the rates fell. Other reinforcing factors included a proper land registry, a cattle boycott, an amnesty for illegal clearances before 2008 and money from a special $1 billion Amazon Fund financed by foreign aid.
The environmental organization says the 60-foot banners on P&G's two towers were in protest of the consumer products company's use of palm oil from a supplier that Greenpeace says is linked to tropical forest destruction in Indonesia.