Background

Depending on the sources, microplastics can be categorized into “primary microplastics” and “secondary microplastics.” Primary microplastics (or intentionally added microplastics) are designed and manufactured as minute particles on purpose and are mainly found in medicines and personal care products (e.g., toothpaste and body scrubs), paint, composite materials and in manufacturing and industrial products. Secondary microplastics (or unintentionally released microplastics) are derived from fragmentation and weathering of larger plastic debris due to a combination of mechanical abrasion, UV radiation, and (micro)biological degradation in the environment . They tend to accumulate in the form of fibres, beads, flakes, pellets, or powders. The majority of microplastics are believed to be secondary MPs which originate from disposal of packaging, single-use items, household items, fibres released by washing synthetic clothes, tyres, pellets production and degradation of other discarded plastic debris.

Several studies have identified diverse sources for the direct release of microplastics (primary microplastics) into the environment: among the unintentional releases tyre abrasion, textile production and use, the appearance of bitumen in asphalt, pellet losses, drifts from sports, and playgrounds are the major ones.

Objectives

The objective of this study is to provide environmental, techno-economic analysis and support to the Commission on possible actions to reduce the presence of unintended microplastics in the environment, in particular from plastic pellets, synthetic textiles and automotive tyres:

  1. Define state of play and identify main source categories
  2. Identify the main problems and their drivers
  3. Establish the baseline
  4. Identify objectives and develop policy measures to address the problems identified
  5. Consider policy options and assess them from economic, social and environmental perspectives
  6. Compare the options against the baseline scenarios to identify the best option or combination of options
  7. Undertake various consultation activities