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New EU Sustainable Chemical Strategy Released

Scientific hedge beaker.

October 26, 2020


On October 14th 2020 the European Commission (EC) released its long-range strategy document on chemical sustainability that is expected to drive innovation and policy in the European chemical industry for the foreseeable future.

The main aim of the strategy is to change the way chemicals are produced and used, so that they minimise the impact on human health and the environment, whilst maximising their contribution to society. In the process, a more circular economy is to be generated with secondary materials being required to meet the same high standards as virgin ones, and incentives are to be provided to help industry and its value chain undergo the green transition.

To achieve these aims the EC has outlined 16 areas to be addressed, covering topics such as how to make products sustainable by design, how they intend to move towards a group chemical assessment approach, and how digital technologies are to be used to innovate chemical product production.

Key motions proposed

Safe and Sustainable By-Design To promote more sustainable chemical design, whilst establishing a support network to promote information sharing and technical expertise.
Non-Toxic Material Cycles Removal of substances of concern in products, by providing information on their presence in the supply chain and promoting their removal via authorisations. They all plan to support investment in business that can help increase safe recycling.
Innovating Industrial Production Financially support research and development programmes in advanced materials and low impact chemical and material production processes, whilst helping to up-skill the workforce.
Strengthening the EU’s Strategic Autonomy Identify and protect the important value chains for the technologies and applications required for the transition to green chemical processes.
Protection Against the Most Harmful Chemicals Create a group approach to make sure consumer products have all carcinogenic, mutagenic, reproductive toxic, endocrine disrupting and persistent and bioaccumulating chemicals phased out and strengthen protection for professional users.
Endocrine Disruptors Accelerate the methods designed to generate information on endocrine disruptors to enhance screening and substance testing. Once endocrine disruptors have been identified the aim is to ban them from consumer products and strengthen worker protection.
Chemical Mixtures Introduce measures to try to take into account the cocktail chemical effect, initially in REACH by introducing a mixture assessment factor, but also taking this into account with other chemical legislations.
Chemical Pollution in the Natural Environment Introduce new classifications to CLP and add new categories to be considered as substances of very high concern under REACH to fully address environmental toxicity, persistency, mobility and bioaccumulation. Research and development for decontamination solutions in terrestrial and aquatic environments will also be supported.
PFAS PFAS is to be dealt with in a group approach and banned unless they are essential for society, whilst also providing research and incentives for innovations designed to promote substitution.
Coordinated and Simplified Actions Across EU Chemical Legislation A single “Public Activities Coordination Tool” is to provide an overview of all planned and ongoing chemical initiatives. There is also an aim to make the best use of existing resources and expertise via a clear allocation of responsibilities and increased cooperation.
Methodologies and Data Methodologies are to be made more coherent and harmonised, to try to build a “one substance, one assessment,” with CLP as the central regulation for hazard classification.
Zero Tolerance for Non-Compliance Increase the effectiveness of enforcement, with all REACH dossiers to be evaluated and the use of digital tools to provide a more harmonised and coordinated response to enforcement.
Information Requirements Expand REACH to cover polymers of concern, and introduce requirements to view the environmental footprint of a chemical and to effectively identify all chemicals with critical hazardous properties.
Science-Policy Interface Establish a research and innovation agenda for chemicals and promote the uptake of advanced tools for data analysis and provide an early warning and action system for chemicals
International Leadership Continuing to lead and promote existing international chemical instruments and pushing for the adoption of global objectives and targets around safe chemical management.
Cooperation with Other Countries Promote the good management of chemicals through international cooperation and ensure substances banned in the EU are not produced for export.

In conjunction with the release of the strategy, ECHA’s Executive Director Bjorn Hansen  released a statement announcing ECHA’s intention to support the strategy stating the following:

At ECHA, we can play our part in making this strategy a success by supporting the Commission and EU Member States together with our stakeholders. We can particularly contribute in three areas: collecting, publishing and evaluating data on chemicals to stimulate innovation towards safer alternatives; ensuring that laws are implemented more efficiently and consistently; and speeding up chemicals risk management in the EU.”


Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability Towards a Toxic-Free Environment

ECHA response

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