Microplastic Regulations in the European Union: An Overview

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Microplastics are particles that are smaller than 5 mm and made of polymers and additives. These can be found in products such as cosmetics, personal care products, and cleaning products.

Microplastics can get released into the environment, harming it. As such, the EU now restricts microplastics and products and mixtures that contain intentionally added microplastics.

In this guide, we explain what importers and manufacturers should know about microplastics, including which products may contain them, whether these are banned, and how the REACH and EU Ecolabel Regulations restrict microplastics.


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What are microplastics?

The ECHA defines microplastics as small pieces of solid synthetic polymers found in particles that:

a. Makeup at least 1% by weight of the particle or continuously coat those particles, and

b. Have all dimensions equal or smaller than 5 mm, or have a maximum length of 15 mm and a length-to-diameter ratio greater than 3.

Products such as cosmetics, fertilisers, or detergents may contain microplastic particles.

In some cases, larger pieces of plastic can break down over time to become microplastics. This can, for example, occur when washing synthetic fabrics. However, microplastics are also intentionally included in products for specific reasons – for instance for exfoliating purposes in body care products.

The EU restricts microplastics and articles that contain intentionally added microplastics via Regulation (EU) 2023/2055, which amends the REACH Regulation with the aim of reducing the release of microplastics into the environment, especially into the sea.

Regulation (EU) 2023/2055 also aims to replace plastic glitter with non-polluting and environmentally friendly glitter.

Additionally, the EU Ecolabel Regulation, which is voluntary, bans the inclusion of microplastics in cosmetics, animal care products, and some types of cleaning products – if you intend to use the Ecolabel.

Microplastic Regulations in the European Union

What products may contain microplastics?

The Annex to Regulation (EU) 2023/2055 sets specific provisions for different categories of products that may contain microplastics. Here we list some examples:

  • Cosmetics
  • Fragrances
  • Personal care products
  • Detergents
  • Cleaning products
  • Fertilisers
  • Synthetic sport surfaces
  • Medical devices

Further, microplastics may form unintentionally in products. Here are some examples:

  • Synthetic clothes (when washed)
  • Tyres (due to their use on the road)

Are microplastics banned in the EU?

The European Commission adopted measures restricting microplastics under the REACH Regulation. These measures ban microplastics, and products or mixtures with intentionally-added microplastics on a concentration higher than 0.01% by weight. This restriction affects products such as the ones listed in the above section.

Importers and manufacturers should ensure their products do not contain microplastics above the allowed limits.

Additionally, the EU Ecolabel Regulation – which is a voluntary labelling scheme – bans the inclusion of microplastics and microbeads in animal care and cosmetic products.

Microplastics Restriction: Regulation (EU) 2023/2055

This regulation amends Annex XVII to REACH by restricting synthetic polymer microparticles on their own, or when intentionally added to products and mixtures.

Product scope

The regulation covers microplastics on their own, or products and mixtures that may contain microplastics. Here we list some examples of these products, taken from Point (1)6 of the Annex to the regulation:

  • Fragrance capsules
  • Rinse-off products
  • Lip products and makeup products
  • Leave-on products
  • Detergents
  • Medical devices
  • Fertilising products
  • Plant protection products
  • Agricultural and horticultural products
  • Granular infill for synthetic sports surfaces

Substance restrictions

The regulation prohibits the sale of microplastics under either of the following conditions:

a. As substances on their own; or

b. In mixtures or products with a concentration of at least 0.01% by weight.

Note that, while this regulation is already in force, microplastic restriction starts applying from a later date for some types of products and mixtures. Here are some examples taken from the Annex to the regulation:

  • From 17 October 2027 – Rinse-off products
  • From 17 October 2035 – Lip, nail, and makeup products
  • From 17 October 2028 – Detergents

We couldn’t find any provisions that set a restriction starting date for products and mixtures that are not specifically mentioned in the Annex.

The restriction doesn’t apply to:

  • Synthetic polymer microparticles when intended for use in industrial sites
  • Medicinal products
  • Some fertilising products
  • Food additives
  • In vitro diagnostic devices
  • Food
  • Some types of microparticles (e.g. microparticles permanently incorporated into a solid matrix)

Instructions and labelling requirements

Suppliers of some types of microplastics, or products and mixtures that contain microplastics, should also provide information concerning the microplastics.

For example, suppliers of lip, nail, and makeup products containing microplastics should provide the following statement: “This product contains microplastics.”, for products placed in the market between 17 October 2031 and 16 October 2035.

Note: Our understanding is that the following:

a. There are no provision that apply to lip, nail, and makeup products until 16 October 2031.

b. Only labelling provisions apply from 17 October 2031 to 16 October 2035.

c. From 17 October 2035, microplastics will be restricted in lip, nail, and makeup products, thus a labelling won’t be needed anymore.

However, the regulation only provides the dates, without explaining the reasons for this choice.

As another example, suppliers of microparticles intended for use in industrial sites should provide the following information from 17 October 2025:

  • Instructions for use and disposal
  • A “subject to conditions” statement
  • Information on quantity or concentration
  • Information on the polymer’s identity
  • The statement “This product contains microplastics.”
  • Pictograms on the label, packaging, or leaflet

EU Ecolabel Regulation

The EU Ecolabel Regulation and its related product-specific decisions set voluntary requirements such as substance restrictions and labelling, to support the sustainable manufacture and consumption of products.

In this section, we focus on microplastic requirements, which are provided by several decisions that cover cosmetics, animal care products, and detergents.

Product scope

The EU Ecolabel covers several categories of consumer products, including the following categories for which microplastic restrictions exist:

  • Cosmetics
  • Animal care products
  • Cleaning products
  • Detergents


In this section, we list the decisions that ban the use of microplastics and the respective covered products:

a. Decision (EU) 2021/1870 – Cosmetic products and animal care products

b. Decision (EU) 2017/1214 – Hand dishwashing detergents

c. Decision (EU) 2017/1215 – Industrial and institutional dishwasher detergents

d. Decision (EU) 2017/1216 – Dishwasher detergents

e. Decision (EU) 2017/1217 – Hard surface cleaning products

f. Decision (EU) 2017/1218 – Laundry detergents

g. Decision (EU) 2017/1219 – Industrial and institutional laundry detergents

Example: Decision (EU) 2021/1870 (Cosmetic products and animal care products)

The following substances shall also not be included in the product, neither as part of the formulation, as part of any mixture included in the formulation, nor as impurities:


Microplastics and microbaeds;

Lab testing

Lab testing is necessary for importers and manufacturers to prove that their product complies with the requirements of REACH and the EU Ecolabel Regulation.

When a product passes lab testing, importers and manufacturers receive a test report that proves their products comply with the relevant requirements.

Test methods

Regulation (EU) 2023/2055 includes test methods in Appendix 15 for proving the degradability of polymers. Here, we provide a few examples of those test methods:

a. T1. OECD TG 301 B, C, D, F — “Ready Biodegradability”

b. T3. OECD TG 306 — “Biodegradability in Seawater”

c. T5. EN ISO 14852 — “Determination of the ultimate aerobic biodegradability of plastic materials in an aqueous medium – Method by analysis of evolved carbon dioxide.”

d. T6. EN ISO 14851 — “Determination of the ultimate aerobic biodegradability of plastic materials in an aqueous medium – Method by measuring the oxygen demand in a closed respirometer.”

Testing companies

Here are a few companies that offer to test against the EU regulations explained above:

  • Intertek
  • SGS
  • Measurlabs
  • UL Solutions
  • (USA & EU)


    • Request a free 30-minute call with Ivan Malloci to learn how we can help you with:
    • Find product requirements
    • Certification and labeling
    • Lab testing


    Disclaimer: The Site cannot and does not contain legal advice. The legal information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of legal advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THE SITE IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

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    Sources: Our articles are written in part based on publicly available information, and our own practical experience relating to product compliance. These are some of the primary sources we use:

    • ec.europa.eu
    • echa.europa.eu
    • ecfr.gov
    • cpsc.gov
    • ftc.gov
    • fcc.gov
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