EU Issues New Revised Ecolabel Criteria for Absorbent Hygiene Products

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October 10, 20233E Global Research TeamBlog

On 22 September 2023, the EU Official Journal published Commission Decision (EU) 2023/1809, which establishes new EU Ecolabel criteria for absorbent hygiene products and reusable menstrual cups.

The criteria will apply from 21 September 2023 until 31 December 2029.

3E Review 

New Ecolabel Criteria

Regulation (EC) No. 66/2010 provides that the EU Ecolabel may be awarded to products with a reduced environmental impact during their entire life cycle. Specific EU Ecolabel criteria are established for each product group, with expiration deadlines.

Ecolabel criteria for absorbent hygiene products are set up to expire on 31 December 2023. In order to better reflect best practices, policy developments, and the increased market demand for sustainable products, the European Commission decided to repeal the current Ecolabel criteria for these products (as laid down in Commission Decision 2014/763/EU) and to establish a new set of criteria for absorbent hygiene products. It also decided to regulate a new category (reusable menstrual cups).

The new Ecolabel criteria focus on the main environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of these products and promote circular economy aspects. In particular, the following are now considered:

  • Materials sourcing (fluff pulp, wood, cellulose fibers, cotton)
  • Use of deforestation-free or organic materials
  • Bleaching
  • Air and water emissions
  • CO2 emissions
  • Energy- and water-savings during manufacturing
  • Use of synthetic polymers, biodegradable synthetic polymers, and super absorbent polymers in absorbent hygiene products
  • Material efficiency (i.e., reduction of waste during manufacturing)
  • Recyclable package and incorporation of recycled materials
  • Fitness for use criteria
  • Corporate social responsibility (labor aspects)
  • Labeling requirements

Ecolabel Criteria Related to Chemicals

The Ecolabel criteria also focus on the presence of hazardous chemicals.

Prohibited Chemicals

In particular, the Ecolabel criteria prohibit certain chemicals, including but not limited to:

  • Fragrances
  • Parabens
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phthalates
  • Antibacterial agents
  • Endocrine disruptors
  • Candidate substances of very high concern (Candidate SVHC)
  • Inks and dyes (prohibited in absorbent hygiene products and restricted to 2% in reusable menstrual cups)

In addition, the criteria prohibit other chemicals, based on their CLP hazard statement (H or EUH statement). Thus, the list includes chemicals classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and reprotoxic (CMR); acute toxic; specific target organ toxic; respiratory and skin sensitizers; endocrine disruptors; persistent bioaccumulative toxic (PBT) and very persistent and very bioaccumulation (vPvB); and persistent, mobile, and toxic (PMT) and very persistent and very mobile (vPvM).

Restricted Chemicals

Certain chemicals, classified as hazardous to the aquatic environment and hazardous to the ozone layer, may be present only if their concentration does not exceed 0.010% (weight by weight (w/w)). In addition, siloxanes D4, D5, and D6 are restricted in reusable menstrual cups and shall not be present in the silicone raw materials in individual concentrations above 100 parts per million (0.0100% w/w).


Despite the prohibitions, certain of the prohibited substances may be exceptionally used, under strict conditions laid down respectively in Annex I, Table 8 (for absorbent hygiene products) and Annex II, Table 4 (for reusable menstrual cups).


Certain chemicals present in final absorbent hygiene products as impurities shall also comply with concentration limits (as listed in Annex I, Table 9). The list includes, for example, formaldehyde, PAHs, bisphenol A, phthalates, pesticides, organotins, and heavy metals.

3E Analysis 

The commission’s decision is binding in its entirety to all EU member states.

Concerning absorbent hygiene products, existing Ecolabel licenses will remain valid until 21 September 2024 (12 months after the effective application of the new EU decision). Companies willing to obtain Ecolabel licenses are informed that applications submitted before 21 September 2023 will be evaluated under the old Ecolabel criteria, while applications submitted within two months (i.e., between 21 September 2023 and 21 November 2023) will be based and evaluated either on the criteria set out in the new decision or on the old criteria set out in Decision 2014/763/EU.

Concerning menstrual cups, the Ecolabel criteria are newly established. Thus, companies willing to obtain such certification are advised to refer to the newly published decision.

Economic operators are also advised to stay abreast of potential future Ecolabel criteria for reusable textile alternatives to absorbent hygiene products and for reusable menstrual cups that are planned to be specifically established in the ongoing revision of EU Ecolabel criteria for textile products (Commission Decision 2014/350/EU).