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REACH leaders discuss circular economy

July 16, 2015

The Competent Authorities for REACH and CLP (Caracal) have debated the EU’s circular economy package, sharing different viewpoints on the legislation.reach

Chemical Watch reported on Caracal’s debates on the circular economy, with REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) coming into effect in Europe in June 2007 to “regulat[e] and classify chemicals”. The firms within Caracal have said they “fear [the] regulation’s controls could impede recycling”, with “different views” on how the circular economy plans will “address the issue of hazardous substances”.

Under REACH, manufacturers and importers of chemicals are “responsible for providing safety information” to the EU in terms of the chemical make-up of their products, with ink and toner both included. A series of deadlines has been imposed up until 2018 for companies manufacturing chemicals of varying quantities, and the meeting last month addressed the effect the revision of the circular economy package might have on chemical manufacturers.

The EC revealed in January that it would ditch its circular economy package, but then released a 12-week public consultation in late May for its “ambitious new approach” and “the main policy options which […] will feed into the development” of the circular economy. Earlier in May the EU “promis[ed] a better and even more environmentally-friendly alternative proposal”, to come later this year, aiming to deliver “a clear and ambitious political vision combined with effective policy tools [to] drive real change”.

Caracal stated that both NGOs and member states believe “the production of good quality recyclate and remanufactured products” would come from “ensuring that hazardous substances are taken out of the loop”, but other stakeholders have argued that “banning hazardous substances […] is a barrier to recycling” as the substances are so “prevalent in materials already in use”. UK stakeholders sent a letter to Caracal noting fears that “REACH controls could impede recycling, including remanufacturing”, thanks to the “loss of spare parts”.

While the circular economy wouldn’t “detract” from REACH, regulatory control “should be based on risk assessment, not simply a response to the presence of a hazard”, the letter added. It also noted that REACH in a circular economy should “include an assessment of the various resource” and environmental impacts, and if this would find an “overall negative” impact, then the control “should not proceed”.

A contrasting paper from Sweden pointed out that chemicals ending up in recycled materials “are an obstacle to high quality material”, with such waste not “material recoverable waste”. It states that legislation should be amended to “include further legislation” on chemicals, and new laws on recycling should “include requirements to provide similar information”.

Finally, a resolution in the European parliament followed MEPs discussing the reforms, and calls for the EU to “step up their efforts” to substitute chemicals and “restrict” substances that pose risks to human health “in the context of REACH” so that recycled waste “can be used as a major, reliable source of raw material. Recycling should not justify the perpetuation of the use of hazardous legacy substances.

It added that the EU should “step up their efforts to substitute hazardous substances in the context of the RoHS Directive, with a view to establishing non-toxic material cycles”.

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