3 February 2020

Guideline on microplastics in cosmetic products

Microplastics are not only in our tyres and textiles, they’re also in our cosmetics, such as facial scrubs, body wash or even toothpaste. And they aren’t always visible or tangible. Cosmetics may also contain dissolved, gel-like and liquid polymers which then end up in the water supply and eventually in all areas of life and the environment. The REWE Group is striving to reduce the use of these substances.


Each year, around 922 tonnes of microplastics and approximately 23,700 tonnes of dissolved, gel-like and liquid polymers are used in cosmetics in Germany. Wastewater treatment plants are often unable to filter out these substances, and they end up in oceans and rivers, or on agricultural fields when sewage sludge is used as a fertilizer. And they can also spread through the air. Microplastics have been found in 69 percent of fish samples taken from the North and Baltic Seas, as well as in food – and in people. Microplastics absorb harmful substances, and they also take a long time to decompose. The ramifications have not been fully researched yet, but it can be assumed that microplastics have a negative impact on ecosystems. The negative effects of dissolved, gel-like and liquid polymers on organisms can also not be ruled out.

Our goals

REWE Group set a goal of eliminating the use of microplastics (as per the group’s definition) in the formulations of all REWE and PENNY private label cosmetic products in Germany by the end of 2020. In addition, the use of the REWE-designated focussed synthetic and semi-synthetic polymers in dissolved, gel-like and liquid form in the formulations of cosmetic products should be avoided whenever possible, as long as it does not compromise product quality.

Our measures

The REWE Group has implemented various measures to achieve these goals. They have specified their definition of microplastics and outlined a list of focussed synthetic and semi-synthetic polymers. The REWE Group communicates these to their suppliers to ensure uniform understanding. In cooperation with suppliers, the REWE Group is conducting a continuous, item-specific review of the range of private-label cosmetics to identify and elaborate substitution options and new formulations. In order to ensure that its requirements are met, the REWE Group includes its definitions of the terms in its contracts with the suppliers for the respective products. In addition, the REWE Group’s quality management verifies the ingredient lists. In order to help customers make informed choices, the REWE Group labels their in-house cosmetics that do not contain microplastics or focussed dissolved, gel-like and liquid polymers.