Action needed to substitute hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives

6th September 2016


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Chemicals ,
  • Engineering and metals ,
  • Management ,
  • Supply chain ,
  • Politics & Economics

Author

Fergus McGrady

Chemical substitution initiatives by the European Commission, member states and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) remain largely disconnected, according to a new report.

Risk management and the REACH regulation are the main drivers in European for managing hazardous chemicals and only substances of very high concern (SCHC) require an analysis to ensure they are progressively replaced by safer alternatives.

The ECHA commissioned the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production to identify specific priorities that it and other public authorities could support to advance hazardous chemicals substitution programmes and practices across the EU.

In an industry survey for the report, 81% of respondents stated that they have implemented substitutes for hazardous chemicals in the past ten years, with REACH the key driver. Product safety and occupational safety and health regulations and market pressures also led to alternatives being introduced.

The report argues that ECHA and member states currently put most of their efforts and resources into collecting data on hazardous chemicals and assessing risks rather than supporting alternatives. ‘Researching and evaluating alternatives is an important component of substitution initiatives and the majority of member states expressed limited capacity in this area,’ the report finds.

It also points out that regulatory requirements alone may be insufficient to ensure effective substitution, particularly among smaller firms with limited technical expertise and resources. ‘It is important that government authorities supplement the regulatory drivers with capacity building and the facilitation of resources (technical and financial) to substitute,’ the report says.

Lead author, Professor Tickner of the University of Massachusetts, said Europe could learn lessons from the US: ‘One aspect, is that the pressure to substitute hazardous chemicals in the US derives more through the supply chains, where the retailers and brands play a key role. Improved sectoral and supply chain collaboration and information sharing could accelerate substitution in Europe even before regulatory actions are taken.’

The report recommends more public-private partnerships, and more detailed guidance and technical support to ensure successful substitution. ‘These investments need to be coupled with enhanced inter-authority and stakeholder collaboration on substitution and the development of expert networks that can support industry and authorities,’ it says.

Geert Dancet, the ECHA’s executive director, said the report findings were ‘very interesting and highly valuable’ and would help the agency’s work on alternatives to hazardous substances.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

Fake news

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

Rivers and waterways across England and Wales are increasingly polluted by sewage spills. What is causing the crisis and what is being done to tackle it? Huw Morris reports

31st May 2024

Read more

In January, the Welsh government consulted on a proposed white paper, 'Securing a Sustainable Future: Environmental Principles, Governance and Biodiversity Targets for a Greener Wales'.

31st May 2024

Read more

Gillian Gibson calls for urgent action to avoid environmental tipping points

20th May 2024

Read more

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

16th May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close