China to ban microbeads in cosmetics by the end of 2020

Dec 19, 2019

China has announced plans to ban the production of cosmetics that contain plastic microbeads by 31 December 2020, with sales of existing stock to be prohibited 31 December 2022.

"The ban will have a great impact on the daily use cosmetic products [industry in China]," April Guo of Chinese consultancy CIRS told Chemical Watch.

"In China, microbeads are primarily used in cosmetic products, but also in some medications. We’ve also seen some reports of use in cleaning products, but this is hard to verify at this point," Damin Tang, plastics campaigner with Greenpeace East Asia explained.

Because China is the world’s second-largest cosmetics market, Mr Tang views the ban as "a decisive step" towards tackling microplastic pollution. 

He noted that the bans will change the practice of Chinese cosmetics manufacturers, which currently produce more than 1.2 million tonnes of cosmetic products every year. "This also impacts global brands selling into China," Mr Tang said.

"I believe the ban will have a strong impact on the domestic cosmetics industry," said Yaqing Xu, cosmetics expert at the China National Chemical Information Center (CNCIC). 

"Because many countries and regions have already banned microbeads, I believe many major international brands of cosmetic and body care products have already replaced or are replacing microbeads," she added.

 

Separate cosmetic legislation

The information on the ban was disseminated via an Industrial Structure Adjustment Guidance Catalogue (2019), which will come into force 1 January 2020.

This government catalogue has been prepared by China’s National Development and Reform Commission and contains information on industries it is looking to encourage and those it wants to phase-out. While the catalogue does carry its own legal force, ministries and local government usually prepare separate regulations based on the guidance.

Ms Guo said that the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) has not confirmed whether it plans to issue a separate regulation providing more detailed information on the ban.

"The NMPA currently has a lot of regulations in draft, so it is difficult to say at this point," she said.

Ms Xu explained that, in 2017, China’s former Ministry of Environmental Protection (now the Ministry of Ecology and Environment) added microbeads – and cosmetics and cleaning products containing them – to its list of high pollution, high environmental risk products. But until now, there has been no legislation or formal ban on the use of microbead-containing cosmetics.

"I think the fact that the government requires the ban to come into force in such a short time is an indicator that it has already fully investigated the situation," she added. 

Source: Chemical Watch 

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