EU legislators’ focus on reducing plastic pollution continues with further measures to fight microplastics. Today, 16 October 2023, the Commission adopted a Proposal to prevent plastic pellet losses to reduce microplastic pollution. Plastic pellets, also called nurdles, nibs, or resin pellets, are used for producing all plastics. Most pellets are microplastics, small pieces up to 5mm.
What are plastic pellets and where to find them?
Plastic pellets are among the largest sources of unintentional microplastic releases. Stricter measures and higher awareness can prevent plastic pollution from such microplastics. Used in the manufacturing process of all plastics, plastic pellet losses are generally caused by a lack of awareness and poor handling. For this reason, while most microplastics are difficult to control and their use is therefore directly banned, the measures to prevent pollution from pellets aim to address their handling. The preventive measures include:
- Prevention to avoid any spills of pellets
- Containment of spilled pellets
- Clean up after a spill or loss event as a final option
Plastic pellets are used in the manufacturing process of many products. Some examples are furniture, electronics, automotive parts, any type of hard plastic product, toys, plastic films, bottles, containers, bags, and many more.
Scope and next steps
The Proposal would apply to the handling of plastic pellets at all stages of the supply chain. In particular, the new rules would apply to:
- Economic operators handling plastic pellets in the Union above 5 tonnes in the previous year
- EU and non-EU carriers transporting plastic pellets in the Union
All economic operators will be required to take the measures foreseen by the Proposal. “Economic operator” refers to those who operate or control the installation or those having decisive economic power over the technical functioning of the installation.
The Proposal will be subject to negotiations of the Parliament and the Council, which will agree on a final text.