It’s been 10 years since REACH 2018 was unveiled, and the final deadline is fast approaching. The European Environmental Bureau is giving REACH mixed reviews.
First, the EEB points out the big steps REACH has taken:
- The strength of the “no data, no market” position is unparalleled.
- The focus on substitution for chemicals which don’t reach compliance provides safer alternatives.
- The use of the precautionary principle creates higher standards.
- The burden of proof of the safety of chemicals is on companies, rather than on the government.
This new way of looking at chemical regulation has inspired many other nations, from Korea to Iceland, to develop their own REACH-like chemical regulations
However, the EEB questions whether REACH 2018 is actually meeting these standards. They claim that half the dossiers submitted over the past fiv e years have been non-compliant, and that companies which are in the process of completing their dossiers still have access to the market.
From this they conclude that the burden of proof has not been shifted to the companies. ECHA and EU member states are having to choose which companies to pursue with further questions and concerns, since there are so many dossiers that still need work.
A slow process
REACH 2018 compliance is a slow process. It is impractical — if not impossible — to put a pause on companies producing or importing chemicals and articles using chemicals. So companies are forced to work on dossiers for their substances in the midst of change.
The largest corporations have met their deadlines and have begun the lengthy process of review. But the largest group of companies — the SMEs — have not yet reached the deadline for submitting dossiers. The process of reviewing their dossiers will be ongoing for years, not months after the May 31, 2018 deadline.
It is too early to make judgments on the effectiveness of REACH 2018.
The learning curve
ECHA has been learning from the process and making changes along the way.They’re also continually producing new materials to clarify the process — including the unforeseen issues — for companies working on compliance.
For individual companies, there is unquestionably a steep learning curve. Of course the REACH compliance process itself has been new. In fact, there are some companies that are just beginning the compliance project.
There is also another level of learning. Many companies have had to learn new ways of communicating along their supply chain, new ways of capturing important data, and new ways of collaborating with remote partners.
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