EU Seeks to Prohibit Hazardous Chemicals from Products

A majority of the members of the EU Parliament has called for measures against the use of hazardous substances in products because such use makes recycling difficult or even impossible. That’s why they should disappear from the supply chain as quickly as possible. The members strongly support a Resolution that calls for active measures and supports the position taken by the EU Council of Ministers, The EU Commission, and the ECHA.

According to the Resolution, the first task is to trace substances of concern in the supply chain, particularly in imported products. Waste and chemicals policies must be aligned with each other and avoiding them should take priority over recycling. However, current legal regulations do not support this goal. That’s why regulatory gaps must be closed as quickly as possible, particularly for imported articles. Companies should be mandated to replace toxic substances in products and supply chains consistently.

The Resolution sketches a path for how things could look concretely. Transparency should be improved in the first step. That step requires modifying Article 9 of the Waste Framework Directive so that in the future, vendors would have to inform the ECHA of the presence of such substances.

The Resolution covers four key factors and options for action:

1. Insufficient information on substances of concern in products and waste.

  • Substances of concern identified in REACH as SVHCs, prohibited by the Stockholm Convention (POPs), specific substances restricted in articles listed in Annex XVII of REACH, and specific substances subject to particular legislation (Option 1A).
  • All substances of concern should be tracked “as soon as possible” (Option 2A) and information should be made available to all those in the supply chain, recyclers, and the public.
  • All imported products are to be tracked, and “deeper collaboration” at the international level is required.
  • The ECHA must ensure that chemicals with incomplete or incorrect REACH registration dossiers do not come to market.

2. A reduction in the amount of substances of concern in recycled materials.

  • Whether products are manufactured from primary or secondary materials, they should be subject to the same rules to protect human health and the environment.
  • Products that contain recycled substances may be managed only in secure registration, tracking, and disposal systems.
  • No competitive disadvantage may exist between products manufactured in the EU and those that are imported.
  • When determining the requirements for substitute chemicals, REACH and other productspecific law and regulations should be considered.
  • It would be advisable to introduce a product passport to disclose all the substances present in products.

3. Uncertainties about when the Waste Framework Directive applies and when it does not.

  • Clear, EU-wide rules must be defined to determine when the Directive applies and when it does not.
  • The waste definitions in the Waste Framework Directive must be aligned at the EU level.

4. Difficulties in the waste classification methodologies that create uncertainties in the recyclability of materials.

  • The rules for classifying waste as hazardous should be consistent with those of the CLP regulation.
  • The EU Commission should clarify the correct interpretation of the CLP regulation to prevent incorrect classification of waste containing substances of concern.
  • The lack of enforcement of EU waste legislation is “unacceptable” and must be improved.

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