SBS calls for Commission initiative on microplastics to balance sustainability and safety policy objectives

SBS calls for Commission initiative on microplastics to balance sustainability and safety policy objectives

SBS calls for Commission initiative on microplastics to balance sustainability and safety policy objectives

Brussels, 19 May 2022 – Small Business Standards (SBS) just published a position paper focusing on the textile sector in reply to the Commission’s consultation on measures to reduce the impact of microplastics pollution on the environment. While SBS supports the initiative, it also highlights the need to find a balance between different policy objectives, to close the knowledge gap and to support circular business models in this area.

Microplastics can be found everywhere in the environment and are a cause of increased concern. Scientific evidence shows that they have negative effects on fragile environmental systems and human health. The European Commission has announced the intention to put forward measures to limit the unintentional release of microplastics by the end of 2022 and has recently closed a consultation focusing on microplastics coming from tires, textiles, and plastic granules into the environment.

SBS has published a position paper in reply to the consultation. The position paper focuses on microplastics in the European textile and textile services sector which is predominantly composed of SMEs. SMEs are present in different parts of the value chain from manufacturing to retail and service providers. Textile service SMEs offer a wide range of services such as rental, repair or washing and dry-cleaning. Some of them are also involved in the production and reprocessing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or medical devices. In its position paper, SBS therefore recommends that future EU legislation in this area remains proportionate with respect to the size, capabilities and economic strength of companies and fair in terms of liability.

Furthermore, SBS warns against conflicting legislative objectives related to sustainability and health and safety. For example, some PPE or medical devices do not have alternatives to polyester fabrics that can release microfibres. Moreover, too restrictive measures on the unintentional release of microplastics alone could run into conflicts with other sustainability goals such as longer-lasting products mentioned in the EU strategy for sustainable textiles or the Sustainable Products Initiative. Often polyester-cotton textiles have a much longer life cycle than entire cotton products. Additionally, the drying of synthetic textiles is much more energy-efficient than drying natural fibres.

The paper also points out that there is limited knowledge about the source and amount of microplastics release into the environment. SBS therefore suggests closing the knowledge gaps before legislative measures and standards are developed.

Finally, the paper points out that the longer individual textiles are used, the better the ‘microplastics balance’ becomes. Textile service companies – which in most cases are provided by SMEs – already contribute to a reduction of microplastics emission by implementing circular business models. ‘Any new measure should support circular business models and they should be taken in fields where they have an impact’, concluded SBS Secretary General Maitane Olabarria.

Further technical details can be found in the SBS position paper.


Views and opinions expressed are those of Small Business Standards (SBS) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or EFTA. Neither the European Union nor EFTA can be held responsible for them.