Accelerating the substitution of hazardous chemicals and transition towards a safer circular economy
In a previous newsletter article – Chemical safety in a circular economy –, we wrote about the potential risk of re-introducing harmful substances back into society in recycled products.
It may seem clear that a product from recycled material should be as safe as a product from virgin material. However, in practice, it is often difficult to fully exclude the presence of hazardous substances in the former due to the mixed waste streams that serve as raw materials.
Substances of Very High Concern
Chemical substances that meet certain REACH criteria – such as being carcinogenic, toxic for reproduction, or persistent in the environment – may be proposed as SVHC (substance of very high concern). Listing a substance as an SVHC by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is the first step in the procedure for authorization or restriction of the use of a chemical.
Although these high concern substances can be considered unwanted due to their hazardous nature nowadays, they are used (and in the past in large quantities) due to their flame retardant, stabilizing, or other functional properties in plastics, furniture, building materials, and electronics.
To avoid SVHC substances from ending up in toys, clothes, or food packaging made from recycled feedstock, these chemicals need to be tracked from manufacturing to waste. This way, waste processors and secondary manufacturers (recyclers) know if a waste product contains one or more of these substances and how to safely extract them from the waste streams. Bjorn Hansen, ECHA’s Executive Director says:
“Tracking harmful chemicals is the key for moving towards a more sustainable circular economy. All materials are made of chemicals and we need to make sure we know which products contain harmful chemicals before they are recycled. Our upcoming database will help us to make products safer.”
The SCIP database
The new SCIP database, to be launched by ECHA this year, is intended to contain information on Substances of Concern in articles, as such, or In complex objects (Products). The aim is to promote the substitution of hazardous chemicals and transition towards a safer circular economy. This way it is ensured that the information is available throughout the whole lifecycle of products and materials, including at the waste stage.
Who needs to submit information?
An SVHC on the Candidate List must be present in an article in a concentration above 0.1 % to trigger the submission requirement.
The following suppliers of articles will need to submit information to the SCIP database:
- EU producers and assemblers;
- EU importers; and
- EU distributors of articles and other actors who place articles on the market.
Retailers and other actors supplying articles directly to consumers do not need to submit information to ECHA.
Producers and distributors of articles produced outside of the EU do not have direct obligations under the Waste Framework Directive. However, they should support their EU customers (importers) by providing them with the necessary information on SVHCs in articles.
What type of information needs to be submitted?
Companies will need to submit:
- Information to identify the article;
- The name, concentration range and location of the SVHC in the article; and
- Other information on its safe use.
The required information on articles will not include confidential business information. This means that, for example, the concentration of the substance in the article is collected in ranges, not in exact amounts.
What is an article?
Under REACH an article is an object which during production is given a special shape, surface or design which determines its function to a greater degree than its chemical composition does. Examples of articles are plastic packaging or cloths
There are also Complex objects which may be made of several individual articles. This can be something as complex an e-bike consisting of hundreds of different articles (frame, battery, electronics, tyres etc).
The SCIP Communication obligations on SVHC substances in articles also apply to every article incorporated in a complex object.
ECHA updates the SVHC Candidate List regularly, usually twice a year. Since the requirements will also apply to any substance included in the Candidate List in the future, you can follow the Registry of Intentions on ECHA’s website to get advance notice on substances that are intended to be proposed as SVHCs on the Candidate List.
Notification and Communication under REACH regulation vs Obligations SCIP database
Although the database is put in place by ECHA, the SCIP database is established under the Waste Framework directive, not REACH. Therefore, the existing communication and notification obligations on SVHC substances in articles under REACH are not replaced by the introduction of the SCIP database.
To fulfill the notification obligations under REACH and the SCIP the following steps can be taken
- Assess your products
- Implement a system for identifying and tracking SVHC substances in your articles
- Collect information (e.g. REACH certificates) from your suppliers
- Assess if the concentration of SVHC reaches the 0.1 % threshold
- Create a SCIP notification dossier (an IUCLID template will be available for this)
- Submit your notification dossier.