The date 31 May 2018 is crucial for companies producing or making chemical substances in the European Union. This is after all the deadline for registering chemical substances in the framework of the European “REACH” rules that are imported or manufactured in low volumes between 1 and 100 tons a year.
What does this entail? Below is an overview.
REACH: just a reminder
Chemical substances surround us. Although their fundamental importance in our modern lifestyle can be ignored, these products can also be hazardous to humans and the environment.
Consequently, already in 2007, the EU Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (“REACH”), establishing a European Chemicals Agency, entered into force.
This Regulation aims to keep the production, import, and the use of chemical substances safe.
Some core elements of the REACH Regulation are:
- REACH applies to all chemical substances that are manufactured, imported, brought onto and used on the market, either on their own or in mixtures;
- All chemical substances that are produced or imported in volumes of more than 1 tonne/year must be registered in a central data bank by the companies. These information are checked by the European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki (“ECHA”);
- The responsibility is shifted from the governments to the companies: it is up to the companies to manage and identify the risks associated with the substances that they bring onto the internal market. It is their responsibility to show how their products can be used safely;
- If national authorities are of the opinion that the risks are managed inadequately, these authorities can restrict the manufacturing or the use of these substances;
- By enacting legislation, the national authorities try to replace hazardous substances with safer alternatives;
- Some substances (such as radioactive substances) or waste do not fall under the scope of application of REACH. These are regulated extensively by other regulations.
Previous registration rounds
To register the products that can already be found on the EU market, REACH uses a mutli-tiered system:
- the first registration round ended in 2010. By that date, companies should have had the most hazardous substances that are produced or imported in very large volumes (between 100 and 1000 tons/year) registered. In total, nearly 3400 substances have been registered successfully, with a total of 14 783 registrations;
- thereafter by 31 May 2013, the other substances that are produced and imported in volumes between 100 and 1000 tons/year should have also been registered. 2998 substances were registered before this deadline.
Current registration round: ultimately by 31 May 2018
Finally, by 31 May 2018, chemical products that are produced or imported in volumes between 1 and 100 tons/year must be registered. This is the last transitional period for registration that (temporarily) rounds up the process of collecting data on substances on the EU market.
The last registration round will outnumber the previous two rounds greatly. ECHA expects more than 60 000 registrations for no less than 25 000 substances. It is expected that mainly SMEs will register this time.
Failure to comply with REACH obligations can lead to heavy sanctions: a product that is not registered timely can not only be rejected from the market but can also be curbed under criminal law. For instance, a prison sentence of 10 years maximum and/or fines up to €7.000.000 can be ordered under Belgian law for some REACH violations.
Therefore, it is best that the deadline be marked in your diaries if you haven’t done so already.
More information about the registration of chemical substances can be found on the website of ECHA.