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Laundry phosphate ban to stop algae choking streams and ponds

December 22, 2011 1:14 AM

Stream.Laundry and dishwasher detergents must be phosphate-free in future, following a vote in the European Parliament. The measures, supported by West Midlands Lib Dem MEP Liz Lynne, are aimed to help keep rivers and lakes clean and protect aquatic life in waterways and seas.

Liberal Democrat MEPs led the European Parliament's position on the new legislation, which introduces EU wide restrictions on phosphorus in washing powder from June 2013.

The aim of the new laws is to tackle eutrophication - the common sight of harmful overgrowths of green algae in streams, ponds and lakes. Washing powder and detergents using phosphates are a significant cause of the problem, though substitutes are available.

The adoption of the new rules comes after intense negotiations with EU Member States in the Council.

Lib Dem Euro MPs succeeded in extending the proposed ban beyond laundry washing powder to automatic dishwasher detergents, which are estimated to cause at least as much phosphate pollution.

Liz Lynne MEP said:

"These new laws will help protect the environment and reduce the costs to consumers of waste water treatment.

"It makes sense to agree a common EU-wide laws so detergent manufacturers do not have to deal with 27 potentially different national standards.

"Parliament was able to address fears that more innovation and development was needed before a phosphate-free market in dishwasher detergents could be achieved by delaying this part of the restriction until 2017, subject to further investigation by the Commission."

"I am glad that the UK coalition government has backed this plan to improve our environment through straightforward, cost-effective legislation."


Household detergents contribute a considerable amount of the phosphorus entering domestic wastewater, though effective substitutes for cleaning and softening water already exist on the market. The final text prohibits the placing on the market of any consumer laundry detergent if the total phosphorus content is equal to or greater than 0.5 grams (per standard dosage) as from 30 June 2013. The same applies from 1 January 2017 to any consumer automatic dishwasher detergent if the total phosphorus content is equal to or greater than 0.3 grams (per standard dosage).