More steps to reduce plastics and microplastics in the oceans

Plastic in the oceans is one of our most serious global environmental problems. To tackle both the sources and effects of the problem, the Government has decided on a ban on the use of microplastic in certain cosmetic products, and on a grant to municipalities to clean up plastic from Sweden’s beaches.

Plastic pollution and microplastics are present in all bodies of waters on the planet. If no action is taken, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. Researchers have found microplastics in Swedish blue mussels, Norway lobster, cod, haddock and prawns.

The Government has decided to ban cosmetic products that are intended to be rinsed off or spat out and contain plastic particles that have been added to cleanse, exfoliate or polish. The ban applies to products such as toothpaste, body exfoliators, face scrubs, shower gels, shampoos and conditioners containing microplastics.

Products consisting solely of natural polymers, long molecules that have not been synthesised, and that have not been chemically modified are excluded from the ban. Rice grains and coconut shell are examples of ingredients that have an exfoliating effect and are less harmful to the environment.

"Adding microplastics to rinse-off cosmetic products is completely unnecessary. It's not the largest source of plastic in our oceans but it is a 'low-hanging fruit', and the ban is a necessary step towards reducing microplastics in water," says Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog.

The ban will apply from 1 July 2018. Stock purchased before the ban comes into effect may continue to be sold in shops until 1 January 2019. The Swedish Chemicals Agency will be responsible for supervision of manufacturing and imports and municipalities will be responsible for the supervision of distributors and retailers.

Support to municipalities for beach clean-ups

Much of the plastic found in the oceans is washed up on our beaches by ocean currents. In parts of Sweden, this is a serious problem that affects outdoor activities, tourism and more. The Government has decided on a grant to municipalities to clean up plastic from their beaches. The initiative was announced in the Budget Bill for 2018 and is worth SEK 17 million per year in 2018–2020.

From 1 March 2018 municipalities, individually or together, can apply to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency for the grant, which may cover up to 90 per cent of the costs.

Contact

Hanna Björnfors
Political Adviser to Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog
Phone (switchboard) +46 8 405 10 00
email to Hanna Björnfors, via senior registry clerk