Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability: a progress report

Published 
January 12, 2022

CSS: past and upcoming deadlines

In October 2020, the European Union presented its Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS), which is part of the European Green Deal. The Green Deal is inherent to the United Nations' 2030 Agenda and aims to eliminate pollution and achieve a healthy and toxic-free environment.

In May 2021, the European Commission launched two inception impact assessments on the reopening of the CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) and REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals) regulations. These inception impact assessments aim to evaluate the environmental, economic and social consequences of the proposed updates, the actors that will be affected, taking into account feedback from stakeholders and experts.

The feedback periods for these impact assessments have closed and the reports are scheduled for release in the spring and summer of 2022.

The CLP regulation, if reopened, could be modified on several points:

  • new hazard classes could be added,
  • a labeling obligation for certain hazards could appear for certain products currently outside the scope of the CLP regulation
  • specific rules for online sales could be added,
  • downstream users and importers may be required to provide information on certain substances classified for physical effects or health hazards,
  • fold-out labels could be allowed,
  • the addition of customized rules regarding the labeling of undersized packaging is being considered,
  • one of the objectives would remain to simplify and reduce administrative costs,
  • etc.

With regard to the REACH regulation, the planned changes could include for example:

  • the revision of registration obligations of manufacturers and importers (information on hazards, safe use document, registration of certain polymers, environmental impact, etc.)
  • the introduction of a mixture assessment factor,
  • simplifying communication within the supply chain (e.g., by improving Safety Data Sheets, or SDSs),
  • the revision of the provisions on the evaluation of registration dossiers (e.g. the possibility to revoke registration numbers in case of non-compliance, or the possibility to request tests in order to obtain information on the hazards of a substance),
  • the reform of the authorization process, including the possibility of national authorizations,
  • the reform of the restriction process, including a generic risk approach extended to endocrine disruptors, PBT (persistent, bioaccumulative or toxic) substances, neurotoxins, etc.
  • the revision of control and enforcement provisions, such as the establishment of minimum requirements for national controls, or the establishment of a European audit capability to assess implementation by member states.

If you wish to participate in the public consultation related to the reopening of the REACH regulation, you can keep up to date with its opening (scheduled for the first quarter of 2022) here. The public consultation related to the CLP regulation is already closed.

Focus: the impact of the Strategy on the chemical industry

The chemical industry could lose 12% of its substance portfolio by 2040, according to a report published by Cefic (European Chemical Industry Council). The main factors contributing to this loss are the extension of the Generic Risk Approach (GRA), and the addition of new hazard classes in the CLP regulation. It is estimated that nearly 12,000 substances could be affected by these proposed changes.

Downstream users are likely to be most affected by these changes, particularly through the following sectors:

  • polymer preparations and compounds, paper and paperboard products, inks and toners; all of which may be used in materials in contact with food,
  • paints and coatings,
  • cleaning and washing products,
  • adhesives and sealants,
  • cosmetics and personal hygiene products,
  • lubricants and greases,
  • biocides and plant protection products.

The loss of turnover for the chemical industry is estimated between 47 and 81 billion euros annually between 2023 and 2040 by Cefic, due to the decrease in the production and use of products containing these substances, or the increase in production costs.

Cefic is expected to continue its evaluation in a second phase, which will address the assessment factor for mixtures, registration obligations for polymers, the ban on PFAS, the application of an export ban and the extension of REACH registration obligations to substances produced in lower tonnages.

The European Environmental Bureau, or EEB, a European NGO dedicated to the environment, believes that the Cefic report shows the need for additional regulatory action.

The NGO estimates that this loss of 12% of the chemical industry's substance portfolio means that millions of products intended for consumers and professionals potentially contain substances that are dangerous or of concern for health or the environment.

EEB also adds that the Cefic report does not take into account the longer term issues of these revision proposals, notably with the increase in substitution for safer alternatives and thus the desire to reduce the estimated costs for industry. The impacts on health and the environment are also not taken into account.

EcoMundo’s recommendation: just as with the implementation of REACH some 15 years ago, the chemical industry sees above all the economic costs. Although these costs are important, they will not prevent regulations from making their way in the European Union towards a healthy environment. We therefore advise you to start auditing your chemical portfolios now to determine the extent of the consequences for your industry. Our experts are able to accompany you throughout these audits.

Wish to know more about the European CSS?

For more information, do not hesitate to contact one of our experts!

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