The European Union (EU) enacted the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation to protect human health and the environment from the effects of chemicals. As governments continue to trend toward climate-friendly legislation, it is likely that many regions will follow in the EU’s footsteps and develop similar regulations. As they do, it will be important for the plastics industry to focus on the safe use of materials to stay in compliance, especially as companies look to expand into new territories. In this blog, we discuss REACH and what this type of regulation means for the plastics industry, along with overall compliance for international companies.
The REACH regulatory requirement was established in 2007 to ensure the safe use of chemicals in the EU. It requires all companies to register any chemical substances, not just those used in industrial processes, and detail their potential risks to human or environmental health. Data collection and assessment for this certification is undertaken by the companies themselves and overseen by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
REACH impacts nearly every business operating within the EU, encompassing both mixtures and final products. Organizations must disclose the substances in use to the ECHA, demonstrate how they can be safely handled and communicate any risk management procedures to users. In some cases, companies are required to find less dangerous alternatives or risk being barred from doing business within the region.
To avoid penalties, EU-based businesses must be more discerning about the substances they use. Manufacturers must ensure any chemicals they use are registered and safe. Importers must ensure the products they import comply with REACH regulations. Plastics companies outside of the EU that sell within the region are not directly bound by the obligations of REACH; however, the businesses that use or distribute products are. Therefore, it is best practice for plastics companies to ensure products being imported to the EU satisfy REACH regulations at the front end, thus saving their customers the extra legwork necessary to ensure compliance upon receipt.
Non-EU businesses can ease the way for local EU organizations to use their products in one of two ways: by providing the information that EU buyers will need to register any substances with the ECHA, or by pre-registering substances used in products marketed to the EU. Pre-registering alleviates the regulatory obligations that would otherwise be placed on the company importing any hazardous substances and lessens the number of parties privy to confidential business information, such as product makeup or proprietary materials.
M. Holland is committed to promoting the use of safer materials. Though M. Holland is based outside of the EU, our team has achieved REACH certification for several proprietary resins in our Mtegrity™ line. The recently completed undertaking was spearheaded by M. Holland’s Vice President, International, Jen Riley-Brady.
“This isn’t something that a lot of U.S. plastics resin distributors have done so far, and it involves considerable investment” Jen said. “We ultimately made the decision to pursue REACH certification to give M. Holland’s European customers confidence that our products will always be available, accessible and easy to use from a regulatory standpoint.”