10 Dec Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability: Fine tuning “One Substance – One Assessment” and defining “essential uses”
The European Commission recently adopted its ‘Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability towards a toxic-free environment’. Stakeholders have called it a significant change in approach to chemicals management – the biggest since the advent of REACH in 2000. Along with our colleagues in CEFIC we see the strategy as presented, as a missed opportunity to “truly accelerate the ability of Europe’s fourth largest industry to deliver on the Green Deal”. That said, BSEF and its member companies will engage proactively with the strategy as it unfolds in the coming years.
A number of aspects of the strategy are important for BSEF and its members. Firstly, to bring about more coherence between different pieces of EU legislation dealing with the regulation of substances, the Commission is proposing to introduce a ‘one substance, one assessment’ approach. This would increase coordination and transparency in scientific assessments and strengthen coherence in risk management options with the support of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This will also likely require a reopening of the REACH Regulation.
BSEF, has over the past number of years, along with colleagues in other industry sectors, been calling for such an approach. We hope to see increased coherence between REACH, the centrepiece of global chemicals regulation, and other legislation, such as the RoHS Regulation and the Eco-Design Directive. Getting this right will mean avoiding duplication of processes for assessment of chemicals and increasing predictability for industry.
A second important change is the proposed goal to only allow chemicals on the market in the EU which are inherently “safe by design”. A corollary of this is the proposal to only allow ‘essential uses’ of substances which are “hazardous”.
Currently, a definition of essential uses is not included in the REACH Regulation and BSEF plans to work with CEFIC and other stakeholders on engagement with the Commission as it develops its proposed definition and processes around essential uses. Bromine technologies play critical and important roles in society and economy including the energy transition, global reduction of mercury emissions and fire safety amongst others.
Companies need the right policy signals and signposts to invest at an unprecedented level in Europe. Above all, industry needs regulatory predictability. We look forward to collaborating with the European Institutions to make the EU’s ambitious chemical policy a reality. Such dialogue is deeply needed to strike the right balance.