'Worrying' ignorance of REACH

8th February 2013

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One-fifth of UK manufacturers do not believe that EU legislation restricting the use of hazardous chemicals has any impact on their business, and another 30% think it is unimportant, EEF has warned

A survey of members of the manufacturers’ body reveals that just half consider the REACH rules important, and were taking actions to adapt to the increasing restrictions on substances, such as substituting hazardous materials and working with their suppliers.

Small firms and companies operating in the metals and machinery sectors were found to be least convinced that REACH affected them.

“REACH continues to be the ‘elephant in the room’ for many companies who are either unaware of the implications or still believe it is a chemicals only issue,” said Gareth Stace, EEF’s head of climate and environment. “The regulations have serious requirements for all manufacturers.”

Stace warns that many firms risk losing business if they are unable to advise customers on whether their products contain certain materials and how their use is being monitored. “Furthermore, if companies don’t plan for substance bans, it could prevent production entirely,” he said.

Under REACH, manufacturers and importers of chemicals have to register them with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), and provide a dossier of technical information and a safety report.

Of the surveyed firms that agreed they were affected by REACH, more than 40% said the system was overly complicated and had increased costs.

EEF called on the government to do more to raise awareness of REACH, its implications and forthcoming deadlines, and for more user-friendly guidance.

EEF’s report came as the Environmental Services Association (ESA) claimed that a portion of the UK’s hazardous waste is not being treated in line with government guidance and called on the Environment Agency to review existing permits.

According to the ESA, instead of being disposed of in accordance with the EU waste hierarchy, contaminated soils, for example, are being sent to landfill or exported for incineration, when more sustainable recovery techniques are available.

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