Chemical compliance… what’s happening?

What’s happening with regard to chemical regulations internationally? Here are some updates we’ve prepared for you.

Update on Brexit and REACH

The deadline for seeking an extension to the Brexit transition period has now passed. Both sides were true to their word: the EU waited for the UK to ask for an extension; the UK declined to request one.

During a time when economies are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the possibility of a second wave of infection, this leaves six months for officials to put the required provisions in place to ensure smooth trade between the EU and the UK. On the upside, at least there is certainty here, something that has been in short supply in recent years.

Furthermore, the negotiating mandate published by the UK Government back in February specified a so-called “June Checkpoint”. At the June meeting of the Joint Committee, the UK Government indicated that they may walk away from talks if sufficient progress had not been made, but that meeting took place on 12th June and the UK is still very much in negotiation with the EU, with upcoming rounds agreed in July, August and September.

Taking both of these pieces of information, the transition period will now definitely end at 11pm on 31st December 2020, and one may surmise that the UK is headed for some sort of deal with the EU.

That said, it seems unlikely that such a deal will include chemicals. Defra have recently indicated formally that they are not intending to seek any form of associate membership of ECHA, insisting instead that UK REACH will enter into force on 1st January 2021 (please also see article below).

With that in mind, a renewed focus on UK REACH compliance may be advisable, ensuring REACH-IT asset transfers are in place, and checking future coverage with your suppliers (and their Only Representatives, where appropriate).

UK moving away from ECHA and REACH

The United Kingdom has decided to not seek membership of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and to not participate in the European Union’s REACH regulation post-Brexit. As a result, the UK will now be constructing its own regulatory framework.

Rebecca Pow, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), explained that the transition will take some adjustment, but that the benefits of the UK controlling its own legislation will outweigh the costs – a view that is not widely shared by industry.

UK’s Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the UK Chemical Industries Association (CIA) had both hoped to remain under the EU’s REACH regulation, citing the fact that 60% of the UK’s chemical exports make their way to the EU. As a result, British chemical companies will benefit greatly from any attempts to keep the UK’s own REACH closely tied to its EU counterpart.

The UK is scheduled to officially leave the European Union on 1 January 2021.

New study on substances of concern

The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands has released a new report looking at how best to deal with substances of concern in the circular economy. The report, “Coping with Substances of Concern in a Circular Economy” examines how the country can manage dangerous substances as it attempts to shift to a fully circular economy by 2050.

The report highlights the government’s belief that in a safe circular economy risks to both humans and the environment from hazardous substances should be negligible. Moreover, substances that are of considerably high concern, such as those that can cause cancer, should only be used if no viable alternatives are available or if they are deemed essential for the functioning of society.

The report recommends possible actions to tackle both short- and long-term challenges. For the short term, it highlights the need to develop an overall policy vision and interim goals to prioritize dealing with products and materials of considerable concern.

The proposed recommendations will be developed further over the coming years to adapt to rapidly changing consumer demands as well as available technologies.

Find the full report here.

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