EU wants to ban phosphates from dishwasher detergent

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The EU should extend its proposed ban on water-polluting phospates in laundry soap to dishwashing detergents, the European Parliament said.

The European Commission proposes to virtually ban phospates and phosphorus compounds from laundry detergent from 2013, limiting the amount of phospate -- which improves the effectiveness of detergents in hard water -- to maximum 0.5 gram per standard washing machine load.

The parliament’s Environment Committee on Wednesday voted 48 to 8 to harden the Commission proposal to also ban phosphates from dishwasher detergent from 2015.

“The Commission was not ambitious enough,” said European Parliament member Bill Newton Dunn, of the centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe party.

Dunn, who led discussion on the issue, said that phosphates leaked into lakes and rivers can lead to an overgrowth of algae, which starves fish of oxygen.

Under the proposal, the European Commission would also have to decide by 2016 whether to extend the ban to industrial and institutional use of detergents and whether to further cut phosphate levels in soap for dishwashers and washing machines.

If member states vote in favour of the Commission proposal, it will automatically become law in all 27 EU countries.

Detergents are the third main source of phosphate discharge into surface waters in Europe, behind agriculture and sewage.

Their impact is acute in the Danube River and Baltic Sea, where detergents account for 16 and 24 percent respectively of all phosphate discharges, the European Commission said.

Several EU countries including Germany, France, Britain and Italy have already imposed national bans or limits on the use of phosphates in laundry detergents.

France will impose a ban on phosphates for dishwasher detergent by 2012 and Sweden and Finland are considering similar proposals within the next year.

Proponents of the law say that while there is broad agreement to ban phospates from laundry detergent, some EU member states will want the Commission to push back the date the ban takes effect and will seek to exclude dishwashing detergent.

“Everyone agrees on laundry detergents being included but dishwasher detergent is more controversial,” said Dunn.

He added that small-scale detergent producers in Central and Eastern European member states may need more time than multinationals such as Procter & Gamble Co and Unilever Group to adapt their technology to abide by the proposed limit.

Reporting by Christopher Le Coq; Editing by Geert De Clercq and Jan Harvey