The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) organized a virtual Safer Chemicals Conference on 6 October 2021. Ecobio attended the event.
The conference focused on the chemical strategy and several related themes, which will affect e.g. the chemicals legislation and substance restrictions. The goal is a non-toxic environment where chemicals contribute to society while avoiding harm to the environment and humans. Three core issues of the chemicals strategy are 1) increasing the protection of the environment and people 2) innovation and 3) simplifying and consolidating the current legal framework.
The issues raised by the conference presentations and speeches included:
- New safe chemicals and materials are needed, and innovation is an integral part of it.
- Definition and criteria for a sustainable chemical are needed. Criteria must be introduced.
- Research funding should support the development of safe and sustainable chemicals.
- The chemicals strategy is not only about sustainability, but also includes measures for the circular economy and digitalisation.
- A full life cycle assessment of chemicals is needed to ensure safety and sustainability.
The presentations addressed the grouping of substances to speed up and harmonize restrictive measures, the replacement of hazardous solvents by less harmful ones, PFA restrictions, the new Clean Drinking Water Directive, and nanomaterials. In addition, PCN and SCIP notifications and changes made in relation to them were reviewed.
Additionally, one of the themes of the event was compliance. Conformity and enforcement of products and chemicals will be strengthened through more frequent checks. ECHA supports companies in compliance e.g. with informal reviews through the Voluntary Action Plan.
The new features of PCN notifications for hazardous mixtures were reviewed. For example, it is possible to make notifications for several mixtures at the same time, provided that they have the same classification. Discontinuation of the product may also be indicated in the notices. Furthermore, new situations where the notification needs to be updated were discussed. Updates have also been made to the PCN format and the submission of notifications has been improved, e.g. through the System-to-System (S2S) service.
Obligation for notifying on Substances of Concern In articles as such or in complex objects (Products) was discussed as well as the preparation of the notification, and the public SCIP database and its use. A SCIP notification or a Simplified SCIP notification (SSN) must be made for articles containing more than 0.1 % of any Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC). Companies’ challenges in the SCIP notification obligation include the relatively short notice that was given to prepare for the new obligation and gather the necessary information in complex supply chains. Despite the difficulties, a significant number of SCIP notifications have already been made to the SCIP database.
In addition, the concerns of the companies were heard in the discussions and chat rooms of the event. The following ideas were put forward:
- Companies need clear criteria and direction to invest in as quickly as possible. It takes time to achieve the given goals and make the necessary changes.
- There must also be a market for sustainable and safe chemicals. Companies may face questions such as: How much more can a sustainable chemical cost? How much of the product’s properties are allowed to deteriorate?
- In companies, a decrease in the consumption of chemicals may mean a decrease in growth.
The materials and recordings of the event are available at ECHA’s website here.
Text: Anne Kallioinen & Mikael Hirn