FocusEurope's SMEs suffering from confusion over Reach

13 July 2010 12:09  [Source: ICIS news]

By Franco Capaldo

LONDON (ICIS news)--European small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are struggling with the complexity of the registration process of substances under the new Reach chemicals legislation, an industry expert said late on Monday.

Guido Lena, sustainable development director of UEAPME (European association of craft, small and medium-sized enterprises) added that there was a serious risk that some companies might have to discontinue operations due to issues created by Reach regulation.

The general point of view from SMEs is that the regulation itself is really a monster to apply for,” Lena said.

“At basically 1,000 pages, it’s very big and incredibly technical which touches on the different tasks that SMEs have in the manufacturing chain. You can imagine, particularly for micro small businesses, the difficulty to master and apply something so complicated,” he added.

Lena said that on top of Reach, SMEs also faced difficulties following the guidelines on how to implement parts of the regulation created by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki.

“Often the guidelines are longer than the regulation it tries to explain – its very complicated to keep up, to read them, and understand whether they concern you or not. The proceedings are not SME minded,” he said.

Lena said there was a great need for Reach - the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals - to become simpler in order to be more workable.

“You are in a situation were lots of SMEs do not know what their obligations are because regulations are very complicated and some of our members cannot help simply because it is also too much for them,” he said.

Language barriers have also limited the successful registration of substances by SMEs. Lena explained that internet tools used by small businesses to enter the data required by REACH were only in English, meaning many groups and entrepreneurs of different nationalities were finding the process of translating the information both lengthy and costly.

UEAPME also had concerns with the more specific issues facing SME manufacturers with respect to accessing SIEFs (substance information exchange forums), in which producers, distributors and importers, that have to register the same substances submit a single Reach dossier through a lead company in order to help streamline the process.

Lena said that many SMEs were finding it difficult to access and remain inside certain SIEFs because they had low bargaining power.

Commonly in SIEFs, lead companies provide most of the data and hold the majority of decision making power, so a SME could find itself in conditions which are very bureaucratic and costly to remain in. This might jeopardise its competiveness and ability to stay in the market, Lena added.

He said many SMEs were finding themselves obliged to stay in circumstances with little transparency due to the necessity of having to apply for regulation and register their substances.

UEAPME and other organisations including Cefic (the European Chemical Industry Council), Eurometal, the Reach Alliance, and the FECC (European Association of Chemical Distributors) with the European Commission and ECHA, established a Director’s Contact Group (DCG) in January this year to identify and solve the main problematic issues facing companies affected by the Reach registration.

“It’s a slow progress but we are making progress,” Lena said.

($1 = €0.79)

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By: Franco Capaldo
+44 (0)20 8652 3214

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