Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


APPENDIX 6

Memorandum from EEF

INTRODUCTION TO EEF

  EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, has a membership of 6,000 manufacturing, engineering and technology-based businesses and represents the interests of manufacturing at all levels of government. Comprising 12 regional Associations, the Engineering Construction Industries Association (ECIA) and UK Steel, EEF is one of the UK's leading providers of business services in health, safety and environment, employment relations and employment law, manufacturing performance, education, training and skills.

  EEF's main interest is in the implications of this proposal for downstream users of chemicals and substances.

  While improvements have been made to the proposal for the REACH system, there are still areas where the system will be unworkable. It must be improved with the following objectives:

    —  is not overly costly or bureaucratic to operate;

    —  does not provide non EU producers with a competitive advantage;

    —  targets chemicals of the most concern; and

    —  protects the environment and human health.

  The proposal takes no account of the fact that most chemicals and substances are extremely valuable for society (they are not all "bad" or "toxic") and that EU companies already comply with strict legislation to minimise impacts and have an interest in protecting the health of their staff and customers. The EU has world leaders in manufacturing and their innovation and productivity must not be stifled by this proposed system.

EEF'S KEY CONCERNS WITH THE PROPOSAL

1.  Responsibility for the Chemical Safety Report is not clear

  There is a lack of clarity in the current draft on the requirements to register downstream uses. The text on this is not clear and we have heard different views from the Rapporteur, Signore Sacconi to what the text appears to say. He believes that Chemical producers are obliged to cover all notified uses in their Chemical Safety Report, unless the manufacturer has asked them not to do so on grounds of confidentiality. The text says:

  "Downstream users must prepare chemical safety reports in accordance with Annex XI for uses outside the conditions described in an exposure scenario included in the safety data sheet supplied to them."

  The main confusion seems to lie in whether or not a chemical producer chooses to produce a chemical safety report for a usage they are aware of but have not previously sanctioned.

2.  Speciality Chemicals may be withdrawn, affecting performance and productivity

  EEF is pleased that the requirement to register a substance for 90% of its uses has been cut, but concerned that substance producers may choose not to register their substance at all, due to the effect that the costs of testing would have on the economics of their product. Such products may be effectively taken off the market by their producers. The most likely substances that will be affected will be small volume, speciality substances, for example, additives in oils, paints and coatings, other solvents and other substances that improve the efficiency of the process. This could have implications for performance and productivity in manufacturing. It could also reduce the performance and quality of many consumer products.

  The Rapporteur of the EU Parliament Environment Committee, Guido Saccone, has said that he recognises the risk that speciality substances may be taken off the market but believes that this is not as great as the risk to the environment and health of chemicals. EEF disagrees.

3.  Cost and Bureaucracy

  EEF welcomes the flexibility in allowing downstream users to conduct their own Chemical Safety Reports, for example in cases where they want to keep use of a substance commercially confidential— but fears that this may not be feasible for smaller companies to do. The system as it is currently designed will mean significant cost for companies at all levels in the supply chain.

4.  Substances for registration should be based on risk, not production quantity

  Selection of substances for registration should not be based on basic production tonnages but on a measure of risk (incorporating hazard/exposure). The key is to develop a robust measurement of risk. Some elements of the EU Parliament accept that prioritisation based on production tonnages isn't logical but hasn't yet heard a good proposal for an alternative based on risk. One proposal is based on the amount of occupational exposure a substance potentially has. Another is based on ecotoxicity.

5.  Imported final articles must be incorporated into the REACH system

  EEF believes that the failure to apply REACH requirements to constituent substances of finished articles imported into the EU leaves a loophole that will have impacts on competitiveness, whilst not helping to improve any environmental or human health protection. Companies producing equivalent products within the EU will have to have the constituents tested under REACH and may move production out of the Community in order to maintain production costs and competition with India, the Far East or the USA. The same REACH system should apply to all imports, whether they are substances or finished articles. This is one element of the proposal on which we agree with the green groups, who want a level playing field to encourage all companies to substitute hazardous substances for less harmful ones. There are at least two precedents for applying the same system to imported whole products already in EU legislation—the End of Life Vehicles Directive where importers must require self declaration from suppliers that components do not contain banned substances, and the Cosmetics Directive, where producers importing cosmetic products must provide testing information.

  Guido Saccone has expressed the view that EU producers will find some compensation in the long term via the added value that REACH brings to their products. He believes that REACH will benefit innovation and quality. EEF believes that the opposite will be the case.

6.  Safety data sheets are effective and should remain

  EEF supports the simplification of the REACH proposal by allowing the use of Safety Data Sheets (SDS) to facilitate data exchange. We believe that these are effective and provide accurate information. We have not seen evidence of problems with their voracity, and believe that any misunderstandings are on the part of operators not reading or understanding them properly.

7.  Recyclates in products should be exempted from REACH

  There is a potential clash between the Producer Responsibility initiatives that require use of higher quantities of recyclate in new materials (eg End of Life Vehicles Directive) and REACH. When recycled substances are used to make products, will these have to be tested according to REACH? In some cases, member states are struggling to develop successful markets in recyclate, for example, with recycled plastics. Requiring these substances to be tested once they have been recycled would unfavourably affect the economic viability of the process. We will put forward an amendment that recyclates should be exempted from REACH.

IMPLICATIONS FOR MANUFACTURING IN THE PROPOSAL

  The EEF believes that the EU proposals for a new chemical strategy will have implications for the majority of EEF members as they will be classed as "downstream users"—those companies outside the chemical industry using additives, stabilisers, lubricants, specialised paints, paints, plastic coatings and films etc.

  These implications include:

    —  A lowering in the availability of speciality, films, or coatings, oils (including lubricants), paints dyes and inks etc which effect the supply of these products in the long term.

    —  An increased financial burden on SMEs who will be required to register and possible test new chemicals within the REACH system.

    —  A reduction in the confidentiality within the development of new products and processes for chemicals used in items or articles, hampering opportunities for competitive advantage.

  As a result of REACH, chemical suppliers will be looking very closely at the costs of testing. A large amount of testing and administrative work could be required to enable substances to be registered. If the supply of chemicals is reduced this could have significant knock on effects for the availability of certain speciality, films or coatings, oils (including specialist lubricants), paints, dyes and inks in the manufacture of finished articles.

  Under the REACH system manufacturers developing such innovative processes and products would become responsible for comparatively more testing and risk assessments of new substances or new unintended uses of existing substances. Whilst not rejecting industry's (ie both chemical manufacturers and downstream users) responsibility to test and risk-assess existing and new chemicals the EEF sees the need for measures to be taken that ensure that innovative and responsible companies do not suffer from a competitive disadvantage.

REGISTRATION—IMPLICATIONS FOR DOWNSTREAM USERS

  These provisions oblige downstream users to consider the safety of their uses of substances, based primarily on information from their supplier and to take appropriate risk management measures. They also allow authorities to have an overview of the uses of a substance as it moves through the supply chain and so can, if necessary, request further information and take appropriate measures.

  The registration provisions oblige manufacturers and importers of substances to obtain, where necessary by performing new tests, knowledge on the substances they manufacture or import and to use this knowledge to ensure responsible and well-informed management of the risks which the substances may present.

  Manufacturers and importers shall address the risks of any use identified to them by their downstream users. A downstream user has the right not to identify a use, in which case he would have responsibility for performing a chemical safety assessment. Conversely, the manufacturer is not obliged to supply a substance for a use that he feels he cannot support.

  Registration requires submission of a technical dossier containing information on the substance and information on risk management measures, as well as starting at 10 tonnes—the chemical safety report that documents the choice of these measures. The information requirement is modulated by tonnage, since this gives an indication of the potential for exposure. There are provisions on generation of information, which aim to ensure that it is of acceptable quality.

IMPLICATIONS FOR UK STEEL DIVISION

  The Eurofer NCP Working Group (formed jointly by SSPG and the Eurofer Environmental Committee) identified four specific issues that may affect the iron and steel industry:

    —  substances used in steel (eg iron, nickel, chromium, etc);

    —  substance used in the production of steel (eg pickling acids);

    —  substances used on steel (eg zinc, chromates, etc); and

    —  substances that are by-products (eg slag).

ROLE PLAYED BY THE UK GOVERNMENT

  EEF supports the work of the DTI's downstream users' group to discuss their particular implications. There is a proposal for this to be merged with a similar group run by the CBI, which would be acceptable as long as there is still government representation on the group.

  Defra has not included all industry groups in its consultation meetings to date.

  One of the most important actions for government at this stage is to garner support and co-ordinate lobbying effort from other member states, particularly in the accession countries. We need a strong voice from industry across Europe to ensure that this proposal is as practical and workable as possible. UK trade associations are already moving in this direction and can support government in this work.

December 2003



 
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