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Business Regulation

Boost for sustainable chemicals as EU commits to major overhaul of legislation.

The European Commission has confirmed it is adopting a new strategy that should give a big boost to those working with sustainable chemicals. Their EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability is the first step towards a zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment announced in the European Green Deal. This  sustainable chemicals EU legislation strategy aims to significantly increase the protection of human health and the environment from harmful chemicals, paying particular attention to vulnerable population groups. Flagship initiatives include in particular:

  • Phasing out from consumer products, such as toys, childcare articles, cosmetics, detergents, food contact materials and textiles, the most harmful substances, which include among others endocrine disruptors, chemicals that affect the immune and respiratory systems, and persistent substances such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), unless their use is proven essential for society;
  • Minimising and substituting as far possible the presence of substances of concern in all products. Priority will be given to those product categories that affect vulnerable populations and those with the highest potential for circular economy;
  • Addressing the combination effect of chemicals (cocktail effect) by taking better account of the risk that is posed to human health and the environment by daily exposure to a wide mix of chemicals from different sources;
  • Ensuring that producers and consumers have access to information on chemical content and safe use, by introducing information requirements in the context of the Sustainable Product Policy Initiative.

Boosting innovation and promoting EU’s competitiveness

The Strategy aims to capture this opportunity and enable the green transition of the chemicals sector and its value chains. As far as possible, new chemicals and materials must be safe and sustainable by design i.e. from production to end of life. This will help avoid the most harmful effects of chemicals and ensure the lowest possible impact on climate, resource use, ecosystems and biodiversity. The Strategy envisages the EU industry as a globally competitive player in the production and use of safe and sustainable chemicals. The actions announced in the Strategy will support industrial innovation so that such chemicals become the norm on the EU market and a benchmark worldwide. This will be done mainly by:

  • Developing safe-and-sustainable-by-design criteria and ensuring financial support for the commercialisation and uptake of safe and sustainable chemicals;
  • Ensuring the development and uptake of safe and sustainable-by-design substances, materials and products through EU funding and investment instruments and public-private partnerships;
  • Considerably stepping up enforcement of EU rules both at the borders and in the single market;
  • Putting in place an EU research and innovation agenda for chemicals, to fill knowledge gaps on the impact of chemicals, promote innovation and move away from animal testing;
  • Simplifying and consolidating the EU legal framework – e.g. by introducing the ‘One substance one assessment’ process, strengthening the principles of ‘no data, no market’ and introducing targeted amendments to REACH and sectorial legislation, to name a few.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said: “The Chemicals Strategy is the first step towards Europe’s zero pollution ambition. Chemicals are part and parcel of our daily life, and they allow us to develop innovative solutions for greening our economy. But we need to make sure that chemicals are produced and used in a way that does not hurt human health and the environment. It is especially important to stop using the most harmful chemicals in consumer products, from toys and childcare products to textiles and materials that come in contact with our food”.


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