10 years of REACH: turning it into a competitive advantage for Europe's industry
As, the REACH deadline (31 May) to register existing chemicals with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has passed, “The European chemical industry is looking to the EU and member states to make sure REACH becomes a competitive advantage for the European industry”, says Cefic. To further improve REACH implementation, ECHA and Cefic signed a cooperation agreement on 15 June.
The European chemical industry has invested a lot of financial and human resources to comply with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). It should in return reap the fruits of its efforts. “The first step is to make sure that starting this weekend no unregistered substances cross the EU border, including substances in articles. Next, making sure that compliance with REACH gives an easier access to global markets.” says Marco Mensink, Director General of Cefic. As a commodity business (customers buy exclusively on price), this is all the more important for the petrochemical sector, which is faced with fierce global competition.
REACH was adopted 11 years ago. Its main goal was to create a database registering every chemical that came on the EU market, in any quantity more than 1 ton, and to shift the burden of proving that substances are safe from authorities to companies. Before a company can sell a chemical in the EU, it has to register the substance with the ECHA: “No data, no market,”. 13 620 European companies have submitted information to ECHA in nearly 90 000 registrations for chemicals manufactured in or imported to the EU and EEA at above one ton a year.
The chemicals manufactured or imported in high volumes more than 1 000 ton per year were to be registered by 2010, those in the middle volumes (100 to 1 000 ton per year) by 2013 and the small-volume chemicals (1 to 100 ton per year) by 31 May 2018. Europe has now created the largest chemical database in the world with 21 551 chemicals registered including petrochemical products. Industry and regulators will now focus on other REACH processes such as Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction.