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MEPs legislate for environmental-friendly washing powders in the UK and the EU

December 15, 2011 1:57 PM
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Washing powders and dishwasher detergents must be phosphate-free in future, following a vote in the European Parliament on Wednesday. The measures will help clean our rivers and lakes, and will help protect aquatic life in waterways and seas around the EU.

Bill Newton Dunn, local Lib Dem Euro-MP was rapporteur (author) of the European Parliament's position on the legislation, and led Parliament's team in the negotiations with the EU Member States and Commission.

Parliament approved by an overwhelming majority a Regulation (which is an EU law that applies directly without debate or amendment by national parliaments) aiming to reduce the level of phosphorus in EU waste water, so as to prevent eutrophication - the overgrowth of algae in streams and lakes which can starve fish and plant life of oxygen.

Phosphate limits and dates

From June 2013 a standard dosage of washing powder must not contain more than 0.5 grams of phosphorus. Newton Dunn fought hard to ensure that the final agreement extended the restriction also to automatic dishwasher detergents, which are estimated to contribute just as much to polluting domestic sewage systems in theUK. (The Commission had proposed only a review to consider the possibility.)

Commenting after the vote, Newton Dunn said:

"This is an agreement in which everyone is a winner.

By strictly limiting phosphorus in consumer laundry and dishwasher detergents we help to protect the environment and reduce the costs of running waste water treatment plant. Consumers will be assured the products they use for these everyday tasks are that bit more environmentally friendly.

Companies making these detergents will not have to deal with a patchwork of 27 different national laws across the EU. At the same time, the fears of some that more innovation and development was needed before we could fully make the transition to phosphate-free dishwasher detergents have been addressed, by delaying until 2017 this part of the restriction and asking the Commission to assist with further studies.

I am glad that our own UK government backed this collective European effort to improve our environment."