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News|01 Nov, 2010

WWF Reaction to the Commission’s proposal to ban phosphates in laundry detergents

Baltic algae
A phytoplankton (algal) bloom fills much of the Baltic Sea. Summer 2005.
Today the European Commission issued a proposal to ban the use of phosphates in detergents but limited its scope to laundry detergents only, meaning that dish washing products will not be affected by the ban at this stage. WWF criticises this decision, since phosphates boost not only the cleaning performance of laundry and dishwasher detergents but also algae growth in our rivers, lakes and seas, threatening aquatic and plant life.

Brussels, Belgium – Today the European Commission issued a proposal to ban the use of phosphates in detergents but limited its scope to laundry detergents only, meaning that dish washing products will not be affected by the ban at this stage. WWF criticises this decision, since phosphates boost not only the cleaning performance of laundry and dishwasher detergents but also algae growth in our rivers, lakes and seas, threatening aquatic and plant life.

WWF calls on the EU parliament and Member States to support a ban for phosphate-detergents for ALL uses in both laundry and dishwasher detergents.

Sergey Moroz, Freshwater Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office said:

“Detergents with high concentrations of phosphates may make our glasses and dishes shiny and clean, but once they reach our rivers, lakes and seas they produce a massive growth of algae that consume large portions of available oxygen, causing the rapid dying out of all living water organisms like fish, plants and other water life. Polluting substances like phosphates are transforming vast areas of the Baltic and Black Seas into dead zones.”

“Alternatives to phosphates which are effective at cleaning and pollute less already exist, such as zeolite. It is disappointing that the EU is still reluctant to get rid of phosphates in dishwasher detergents that several USA states and also some EU countries like Sweden have already banned. Sweden has also called on Baltic countries to ban all phosphate-based detergents in order to save their sea from massive algae blooms. It’s high time the EU starts addressing the problem of phosphates in detergents as well as in other areas like waste water treatment and fertilisers used in agriculture that are also affecting our environment.”

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Notes:
  • According to a study published by the European Commission in 2007, detergents used every year in the 25 EU Member State contains approximately 110,000 tonnes of phosphorus. One kilogram of phosphorus that reaches the river and the sea can produce up to 500 kg of algae.
  • Sweden banned the use of phosphorous in laundry detergents in 2008 and in April 2010 extended the ban also to dishwasher detergents (entering into force in January 2011)
  • Italy, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, and the Netherlands have already adopted a legislation to reduce or ban phosphates in laundry detergents.
  • Austria, Ireland, Denmark, and Finland rely on voluntary commitments by detergents formulators to phase-out phosphate-based detergents.

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