INSIGHT: Reach process moves slowly

09 November 2009 22:02  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS news)--It’s a year of deadlines for companies buying and selling chemicals in Europe as the EU’s Reach chemicals registration and authorisation legislation gets into full swing.

But it stills feels as if the whole Reach process is grinding exceedingly slow.

There are deadlines this month (30 November) for users of chemicals to tell their suppliers just what they use substances for as well as for the late pre-registration of so called ‘phase-in’ substances - those that have not been marketed by a particular company before.

The latter is affecting more companies that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) expected. And it could cause problems for new sellers of metals, and possibly other inorganic substances, that will be restricted to the sale of just 1,000 tonnes of material until 30 November next year if they miss the 2009 deadline.

The first major deadline comes at the end of November 2010, but the chemicals agency is trying to encourage the initial registrations of as many substances as possible subject to that deadline by June next year.

Producers, suppliers and users should be becoming more involved in the formation and operation of the substance information exchange forums (SIEFs) that are expected to be the primary platforms for information exchange under Reach and for substance registrations.

But if Reach is to work, then so must the SIEFs. So far, it looks as though these central Reach processes are hardly operating at full speed.

Up to 3 November, 1,974 SIEF lead registrants (the companies or organisations that will lead product SIEFs) had been identified by ECHA.

The agency’s data does not represent the total number of SIEFs in operation and its executive director, Geert Dancet, believes there could be many more that it simply does not know of.

However, even if some 1,000 or so SIEFs have been created with no designated leaders - and ECHA doesn't know about them - it still seems as though there is a significant shortfall in the number of these groups that will have to be created to take substances through to Reach registration.

Dancet said in September that some 4,000 SIEFs might have to be formed and should be by the end of 2009.

Others, however, believe that there will have to be a great many more of the groups created to take as many as 9,000 substances through to full Reach registration.

Admittedly, as Dancet said in September, this is a marathon, not a sprint. But nevertheless, the agency is not seeing the rate of SIEF formation it might have expected.

“It is to a certain degree disappointing,” he told ICIS news on Monday. He has agreed with the European Commission to contact all stakeholders to ask them to help encourage the SIEFs to communicate with the agency.

Some industries are well prepared for Reach, he believes, and don’t need at this stage to come forward. However, the ECHA does want to be able to identify the lead registrants for a great many more substances.

“We have no clue who is operating at this time without telling us,” he said. “We want to see the full iceberg, not just the tip.”

The situation looked more encouraging two months ago, when a meeting in Brussels for SIEF lead registrants - the companies and organisations that would submit a first registration ‘dossier’ for a substance - attracted a large and enthusiastic turnout.

Some SIEFs are huge, with many hundreds of members, while others are small. Some appear easy to run, while others appear more problematic.

It is up to industry to establish SIEFS for every substance likely to be registered. Undoubtedly, there are parts of the chemicals and other industries that are well advanced in the Reach process.

But there is still a great many companies that are simply unaware of what is happening, according to Jo Lloyd, director of the chemical industry-backed consultancy ReachReady.

She is concerned, as are many in the industry, about how the Reach registration processes are kept on track. There are widespread concerns that the Reach registration process will be overloaded as the final deadline for the first phase of registrations approaches on 30 November 2010.

And the deadlines between now and then? The 30 November 2009 deadlines are probably too close to be of great consequence.

The chemicals agency has made much of the fact that it can guarantee to respond to registration if substance dossiers are submitted before the end of June next year. After that date it could be hard pressed to respond quickly to verify and accept registrations.

Also, as SIEF members have to follow lead registrants with their own product registrations, they had better not leave it too late.

The learning processes in Reach are not so much steep but can be easily ignored. If they are, potential registrants face a difficult time as Reach deadlines approach.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry and join the ICIS Reach discussion forum go to ICIS connect

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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