The Commission has established a high-level roundtable to reach the Strategy’s objectives in dialogue with the stakeholders concerned. The roundtable consists of 32 members, representing Member States, industry, NGOs, international organisations and scientists.
The members of the Roundtable support the Commission to achieve the Strategy’s objectives, help to monitor progress of its implementation and act as ambassadors for the transition to safe and sustainable chemicals and to a toxic-free environment.
The strategy promotes the transition to safe and sustainable by design chemicals and materials, which is a societal urgency as well as an economic opportunity. As a first step, the Commission has developed a framework defining the concept of ‘safe and sustainable by design’ and a set of criteria. The ‘safe and sustainable by design’ framework encourages innovation to replace the most harmful substances in products and processes and aims to develop new chemicals and materials, optimise or redesign production processes and the use of substances currently on the market to improve their safety and sustainability. The Commission Recommendation launches a testing period and a voluntary reporting mechanism.
The EU’s transition towards a circular economy is being hampered by the presence of certain substances that are harmful for human health or the environment, or that prevent clean recycling. The Commission is committed to tackling these ‘substances of concern’ in products and waste. Building on previous experience, including the 2018 Communication on options to address the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation, the Chemicals Strategy lays down several actions to minimise and substitute substances of concern by
- ensuring that the most harmful substances in products are phased out
- introducing minimum requirements to minimise substances of concern in products
- ensuring information is easily available through requirements in the upcoming Sustainable Product Policy Initiative, and tracking the presence of such substances through the life cycle of materials and products
- supporting investments to decontaminate waste streams, increase safe recycling and reduce the export of waste, in particular plastics and textiles
- supporting research and development of innovative business models to ensure a more efficient use of chemicals and the minimization of waste and emissions
- ensuring that authorisations and derogations from restrictions for recycled materials under the REACH Regulation are exceptional and justified
- stepping up enforcement, with more audits, and more frequent checks on products
- strengthening the principles of 'no data, no market' and the ‘polluter-pays’ under REACH
Manufacturing and supply chains have become increasingly complex and globalised for several critical chemicals. The EU must strengthen its open strategic autonomy with resilient value chains and diversify sustainable sourcing for those chemicals with essential uses. This is important for our health and for achieving the goals of the European Green Deal. The Commission will identify strategic value chains and will engage with stakeholders to increase the Union’s strategic foresight on chemicals.
Consumers are widely exposed to chemicals in products, from toys and childcare articles to food contact materials, cosmetics, furniture and textiles. Millions of workers across the EU come into contact with chemical agents that can be harmful to them daily. The Strategy aims to ensure that consumers, vulnerable groups and the environment are more consistently protected from the most harmful substances, including endocrine disruptors and persistent toxic chemicals. Therefore, the Commission is revising REACH and sectoral product legislation on food contact materials, cosmetics and toys to ensure that the most harmful substances are phased out in consumer products and for professional uses, unless their use is proven essential for society. The REACH Restrictions Roadmap published in April 2022 sets out the planned restrictions, providing transparency to stakeholders on the authorities’ restriction work and allowing companies to anticipate (potential) upcoming restrictions.
The Commission is defining criteria for essential uses. This will ensure that the most harmful chemicals are only allowed if their use is necessary for health or safety reasons, or if their use is critical for the functioning of society and if there are no acceptable alternatives from the environmental and health viewpoints. These criteria will guide the application of the concept of essential uses in all relevant EU legislation for both generic and specific risk assessments. All relevant stakeholders will be consulted on the development of the concept and the policy options in Spring 2022. As first steps, the Commission plans to present the criteria on essential uses of chemicals by the end of 2022 and introduce the concept in the proposal for the REACH revision.
The exposure of humans and the environment to endocrine-disrupting chemicals requires specific attention. The EU regulatory system needs to be consolidated and simplified to ensure that endocrine disruptors are recognised in a timely manner and that exposure of humans and the environment is minimised. The Commission will propose harmonised criteria for endocrine disruptors and ban endocrine disruptors in consumer products as soon as they are identified, allowing their use only where it is proven to be essential for society.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) require special attention and they are widely used across many sectors. In the EU and globally, there are many cases of soil and water contamination, including drinking water, can cause many serious illnesses and the related societal and economic costs are high. Therefore, the Commission has proposed a comprehensive set of actions to address the use of and contamination with PFAS. These actions aim to ensure, in particular, that the use of PFAS is phased out in the EU, unless it is proven essential for society.
Commission Staff Working Document on PFAS, accompanying the Chemicals Strategy
People and other living organisms are exposed to a wide mix of chemicals from various sources daily. However, the safety of chemicals in the EU is usually assessed through the evaluation of single substances. In the framework of the revision of the REACH Regulation, the Commission is assessing how to best introduce mixture assessment factors in the chemical safety assessment of substances. The Commission will also make proposals to introduce or reinforce provisions to take into account combination effects in other relevant legislation, in particular on water, food additives, toys, food contact materials, detergents and cosmetics. In parallel, targeted methodologies could be further developed and explored for specific policy areas.
The ‘one substance, one assessment’ process aims to improve effectiveness, efficiency and coherence of the safety assessment of chemicals across chemicals legislation. To achieve this, the Commission has established a coordination mechanism, which includes a new expert group with Member States and EU agencies to discuss and harmonise safety assessments across legislation. Three legal proposals will be presented:
- the reattribution of tasks on chemicals to EU Agencies (2022),
- transparency and reuse of data allowing EU and national authorities to commission testing (2023), and
- ECHA’s founding regulation (2023), to improve the predictability and stability of ECHA’s financing.
The ‘one substance, one assessment’ approach also includes the development of a common open data portal on chemicals (2023) and a repository of health based limit values (2022).
Enforcement and compliance of EU chemicals legislation must be stepped up. These are priorities to ensure the highest level of protection of health and the environment from hazardous chemicals as well as to ensure a level playing field. The Strategy announces a set of actions for all relevant players to work together - to step up enforcement of EU rules on chemicals nationally and at the EU borders, and to promote compliance.
Investing in research today will lead to many innovations that will benefit society in the decades to come. Several funding instruments support research and innovation in reaching the objectives of the Strategy, some steered by the Commission and others under the responsibility of Member States. An overarching, strategic research and innovation plan is needed. This will address different aspects of the lifecycle of chemicals and drive the development of innovative solutions on chemicals and materials in line with the Green Deal goals. The Commission will present this plan in 2022.
Find out more about available funding instruments.
The Commission is developing a framework of indicators on chemicals to monitor the drivers and impacts of chemical pollution and measure the effectiveness of chemicals legislation. This framework is being developed with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Environment Agency (EEA). It will also establish key Performance Indicators, in close cooperation with stakeholders, to measure the industrial transition towards the production of safe and sustainable chemicals.
- Revision of the Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)
- Revision of EU legislation on hazard classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals (CLP)
- Revision of EU rules on food contact materials
- Revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive
- Sustainable Product Initiative
Contact us for more information on the implementation of the strategy and on how to be involved in the relevant actions.