EU firms' ECHA export notifications up, agency asks for more resources

06 September 2017 11:34 Source:ICIS News

Geert DancetECHA's director general said the EU body is getting financially stretched.
Picture source: ECHA

Focus article by Jonathan Lopez

LONDON (ICIS)--EU chemical companies have increased their notifications with information on the export of hazardous chemicals by 74% in the last three years, according to new data from the European Chemical Agency (ECHA).

ECHA also launched on Wednesday a call for more financial resources as its workload increases, an issue it said it was seeking to discuss with the EU institutions and member states.

Under the EU chemical regulation Reach’s Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Regulation, companies have increased their “awareness and compliance” about export notifications, taking them from 4,500 in 2014 to nearly 8,000 in 2016.

“This increase is far beyond the originally estimated 10% yearly increase. The large number of notifications also implies that the EU gives an increasing amount of useful information to authorities in importing countries, which they can use for regulatory purposes and to identify the companies using these chemicals in their country,” said ECHA.

The Helsinki-based body also said the number of companies involved in PIC activities had risen from 390 in 2014 to 1,177 in 2016 on the back of new chemicals added to the list of products subject to export notification and “partly due to EHCA’s activity in raising awareness” about the regulation.

However, the larger workload also means ECHA is getting stretched, it said.

While more compliance with Reach would help “make the international trade of very hazardous chemicals transparent for the protection of human health and the environment worldwide”, according to ECHA director general Geert Dancet, the large workload is putting a strain on how much ECHA can do.

Another example of increased workload, for example, would be the requests it had received for technical or regulatory support from national authorities from EU and non-EU countries, which rose by 80% in the three-year period – from 1,000 to 1,800.

“We express our concern about the higher than planned workload, which continues to increase. Without adequate resources, the Agency cannot guarantee the same level of quality as we have achieved so far,” said Dancet.

The agency said it was seeking to discuss its allocated resources with both the European Commission (the EU’s executive body) and the 28 member countries.

“The report suggests further ways of improving cooperation with the Commission on topics such as distributing or reallocating certain tasks, planning workloads and managing amendments to the regulation,” said ECHA.

“It also proposes potential changes to the legal text to improve or resolve some of the workability issues that the Agency has faced.”

In related news, ECHA said on 4 September EU chemical companies “lack incentives” to update their Reach registrations and Classification and Labelling (CLP).

The EU’s chemical regulation came into force in 2007 and its latest phase of implementation is due in mid-2018, when chemicals produced in small quantities – from 1 to 100 tonnes – will have to be registered within ECHA’s systems.

The 2018 deadline is expected to mostly affect small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with some industry insiders fearing it will put a strain in costs and may put some of them out of business.

“As the main issues affecting companies responsible for updating their information, it [a report commissioned by ECHA] mentions the perception that registration is the end of the process and that no additional work is needed afterwards; obscurity of what needs to be updated, when and by whom; and limited resources, especially for SMEs,” ECHA said.

“The report proposes improvements structured around four steps: [1] A clear definition of what needs to be updated; A clear definition of who is responsible for the updates – clarifying the roles of the lead and co-registrants.

“[3] An improved understanding of why updates are important – that they have an impact on protecting the human health and the environment [and 4] An Implementing Act to clarify the update requirement of Article 22 of Reach, including clear circumstances and fixed intervals when dossiers need to be updated.”

Reach’s Article 22 specifies a number of “further duties of registrants”, which can be divided into those that registrants are expected to do spontaneously under their own initiative and those required by ECHA during the evaluation process.

“Around 64% of the registration dossiers submitted to ECHA since 2008 have never been updated,” concluded the Agency.

ECHA said this latest report on Reach has already been sent to the EU Commission to be taken into consideration within its Reach review expected to be finalised by the end of 2017.

By Jonathan Lopez