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REACH is the dominant driver for substitution - more action is needed

ECHA/PR/16/11

Regulations are critical drivers for industry to substitute hazardous chemicals in Europe according to a study conducted by Joel Tickner and Molly Jacobs from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell Centre for Sustainable Production. The study, commissioned by ECHA, states that the biggest hindrances are limited staff and other resources focusing on substitution, ignorance on safer alternatives and limited information in the supply chains.

Helsinki, 5 September 2016 - The REACH Regulation and other EU policies coupled with market forces have created strong drivers to avoid the use of very hazardous substances in the EU. To accelerate identifying very hazardous substances and substituting them with safer alternatives, the report recommends improving the analysis of safer alternatives and education on substitution, as well as stimulate collaboration within supply chains, for the benefit of especially small and medium-sized (SME) enterprises. This all requires more dedicated staff and other resources in ECHA, Member States and industry.

More government facilitated innovation research, public-private partnership, more detailed guidance and technical support will also be needed 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.

“The findings and recommendations of this report are very interesting and highly valuable to our work to stimulate the replacement of substances of concern by safer alternatives. I believe that this work lists concrete proposals that regulators and industry should seriously consider to implement. ECHA will take the recommendations forward with its co-regulators and stakeholder organisations in the coming months,” says Geert Dancet, ECHA’s Executive Director. 

The report builds also on the experience of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute attached to the University of Massachusetts Lowell and on a dedicated survey conducted among Member States, industry representatives and consultants.

“One aspect, where Europe can learn from the US, 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. In Europe, regulations seem to be a more important driver. Improved sectoral and supply chain collaboration and information sharing could accelerate substitution in Europe even before regulatory actions are taken,” says Professor Tickner of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell Centre for Sustainable Production.

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