Italy has notified the European Commission of plans to ban the production and marketing of rinse-off cosmetics products containing microplastics.
The ban will be enforced from 1 January 2020. The draft technical regulation covers solid plastic particles that are insoluble in water and are less than five millimeters in size.
The regulation will also place a ban on plastic, non-biodegradable and non-compostable ear cleaning sticks. This will apply from 1 January 2019. From this date, manufacturers of "marketable" ear sticks will also have to include on the packaging information on how to correctly dispose of the sticks.
Those in violation of either ban will be fined €2,500-25,000, which can be increased significantly if the product quantities are substantial or their value exceeds 20% of the total turnover of the offender.
Comments on the draft regulation can be submitted through the European Commission's website until 7 September.
The notification says that because of the "impact of incorrect disposal and release of these products in water bodies and in the marine environment, the Italian legislator considered it necessary to lay down specific provisions that ... significantly reduce the pollution caused by [these products]".
And it says that Italy, with almost 8,000km of coastline, and its central position in the Mediterranean, is particularly "vulnerable" to the problem.
Plastic pollution, particularly its effect on the ocean, has been a key issue in the last few years. Microplastics, and in particular microbeads, have been a big focus for many authorities trying to stem their release into the environment. Many countries have already taken steps to address this, including the EU, US and Canada.