On June 27-28, 2019, the European Commission (EC) together with the Ministry for Environment and Food of Denmark hosted the “EU Chemicals Policy 2030” conference in Brussels, Belgium. The event brought together stakeholders from across the field “to discuss the recent developments in” and “future steps and potential developments of the EU chemicals policy.” It aimed to discuss and build on three major evaluations of EU chemical policy that took place over the past few years including a review of REACH (FPF reported), an assessment of the interface between chemicals, products, and waste legislation within the Circular Economy Action Plan (FPF reported), and a fitness check of EU chemicals legislation excluding REACH (FPF reported).

The conference program included a range of panels and thematic sessions focused on topics such as green and sustainable chemistry, chemicals and the circular economy, improving regulatory frameworks for risk assessment and management of hazardous chemicals, and promoting sustainable innovation.

In a series of articles, regulatory news provider Chemical Watch summarized key take-aways from the event. Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, is reported to have made a set of recommendations including “to rationalize and simplify the [chemical] legislative framework” with REACH and CLP still at the core “but with a simpler system for assessing and managing risk.” He also pressed for improved implementation and enforcement of the chemicals legislation citing “considerable variations in capacity between member states” which “means inconsistent application of EU law” as well as for creation of an “early warning system” to identify and manage new risks with a focus “on long-term, large-scale effects on environment and health.”

Many stakeholders at the conference were reported to have requested the EC to develop a “common set of clear, flexible, science-informed criteria” for green and sustainable chemistry along with a framework for completing evaluations based on the criteria. University education was also highlighted as a key area for improvement with less than five percent of rising chemistry and chemical engineering students worldwide required to have training during their studies on the potential harm of chemicals. Kirsi Ekroth-Manssila from EU DG GROW advocated for the development of updated and potentially digital chemical labeling to better communicate hazard information. Within existing EU requirements, she commented that current labels “simply don’t allow us to communicate hazard information sufficiently, effectively and efficiently.” Monique Goyens from the consumer organization Beuc agreed that digital labels could provide value but that “we don’t want e-labelling to replace package labelling. This is very important.”

On the topic of the circular economy, industry stakeholders discussed the role of imported chemicals as a current barrier. “The one thing I really have on my wishlist for the [European] Commission is to stop the import of [substances of very high concern] SVHCs illegally into Europe,” said Marco Mensink from the European chemicals industry association Cefic. This concern is focused on companies producing outside of the EU but still allowed to use SVHCs within their manufacturing processes. “It’s happening today and our companies are suffering from it.” Stakeholders argued that European small and medium companies make significant investments to comply with REACH regulations, but foreign competition is then “able to produce at lower costs because they don’t have to comply.” In order to achieve a circular economy, stakeholders proposed to increase the focus on chemicals enforcement and synchronized rules across the EU for end-of-life treatment of products. A full report with the outcomes and findings from the conference is set to be provided to the new EC when it comes into office in November 2019.

Read more

EC (June 2019). “EU Chemicals Policy 2030.”

EC (July 2019). “EU Chemicals Policy 2030: Report on the Conference.” (pdf)

Ginger Hervey (June 27, 2019). “EU 2030 outlook: Commissioner calls for simpler chemicals laws.” Chemical Watch

Ginger Harvey (July 2, 2019). “EU 2030 outlook: Industry experts call for sustainable chemistry criteria.” Chemical Watch

Clelia Oziel (July 3, 2019). “EU 2030 outlook: Commission backs digital labels to help communicate hazards.” Chemical Watch

Ginger Harvey (July 3, 2019). “EU 2030 outlook: Companies highlight imported products as circular economy barrier.” Chemical Watch

Ginger Harvey and Clelia Oziel (July 4, 2019). “EU 2030 outlook: Commission asked to push ‘big buttons’ on chemical controls.” Chemical Watch