Helsinki – Restrictions and authorisations have prompted companies to replace harmful chemicals with ‘safer alternatives and greener technologies’, according to two recent papers by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) which examined the direct and indirect effects of REACH in driving substitution..
In a survey of industry associations and more than 80 companies, many of which were affected by authorisation or restriction, 19% indicated that restriction was the main reason for replacing hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives, ECHA reported 8 July.
Adding a substance to the “candidate list or authorisation list” was the next most significant trigger for companies, with authorisation selected by 15% of the participants.
According to ECHA, some companies reportedly substituted hazardous materials when a regulatory management option analysis (RMOA) was still under development.
This was particularly the case when the assessing member state had proposed a further regulatory risk management activity, such as identification of substances of very high concern.
Aside from regulation, companies also highlighted demands from their customers, enhancing their public image and adopting their own corporate sustainability policies as the main drivers to substitute hazardous substances with safer alternatives.
“It’s clear that the most innovative companies are those that have adopted a green mindset, with substitution at the core of their business activities,” said Bjorn Hansen, ECHA’s executive director.
Such companies, he noted, are moving away from hazardous substances as part of their corporate policies.
In addition to incentives, the report also outlined a combination of technical, economic and market barriers that companies face when substituting.
These include difficulties in finding technically feasible alternatives, a lack of financial incentive and a reduced competitive advantage.
ECHA's second report then detailed how the agency has helped and intends to help companies overcome such barriers.
Amongst other measures, the chemicals agency promotes training on analyses of alternatives to build capacity for informed substitution.
It also supports member states and industry stakeholders to organise supply chain workshops addressing substances on the candidate and authorisation lists.
The substitution of substances of very high concern (SVHCs) with suitable alternatives is one of three key objectives of the REACH authorisation title.
REACH - registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals - also ensures that the risks to human health and the environment are properly controlled while making sure the internal market is functioning well.