Supplementary written evidence from Professor
Robert Watson, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (SIM 00a)
Please find the responses to the questions from Graham
The primary aims of REACH are to enhance protection
of human health and the environment, and to increase industry
competiveness and innovation. This is done by making industry
responsible for what they place on the EU market through the hazard
assessments and advice on safe use and risk management they include
with their registrations.
Manufacturers or importers of so-called "new
substances" have had to notify data on potential risks since
the 1980s. However, there are also about 30,000 chemicals
on the EU market that predate that requirement for notification
and which are manufactured or imported in amounts of 1 tonne or
more a year. Only a few hundred of those "existing substances"
have been subject to full risk assessment and there are significant
gaps in publicly available knowledge about even the highest production
volume substances (1,000+ tonnes). That is an alarming knowledge
gap that REACH exists to fill.
It is too early to say to what extent the aim of
increasing industry competiveness and innovation will be achieved.
By placing new and existing substances on an equal footing, REACH
removes a strong signal against innovation. In addition, REACH
puts a much greater emphasis on finding safer alternatives for
dangerous chemicals, which will also be a strong incentive for
innovation through the supply chain.
An importer or manufacturer of a substance, eg titanium,
must register it with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in
Helsinki. Registration means producing a dossier of information,
- intrinsic properties and hazards of the substance;
- amount of manufacture/import;
- identified uses and uses advised against;
- guidance on safe use; and
- information on exposure.
One of the key objectives in REACH is to obtain and
share information about the properties of substances being manufactured,
supplied and used in the EU. This ensures that registrations use
existing data rather than commissioning new studies. REACH prohibits
the duplication of animal testing. This data sharing can
then be followed up by a joint registration. Alternatively a registrant
can go it alone.
A registrant has to pay a fee to ECHA. The highest
fee payable is 31,000 (by a large company which manufactures/imports
more than 1,000 tonnes of a substance each year and which chooses
not to participate in a joint registration). A range of reduced
fees is available for joint registrations, lower tonnages and
smaller companies, with 120 being the lowest fee.
No registration fees or licences are required under
REACH before a downstream user can handle a substance.
REACH provides for manufacturers and importers of
a substance to join together in Substance Information Exchange
Forums in order to share data, avoid duplication of any new testing,
and prepare a joint registration. However, in addition manufacturers
of some substances have set up consortia to manage the data gathering,
although these are not a requirement of REACH. Letters of access
to unofficial consortia cannot be policed by REACH although they
would, of course, be subject to competition law.
A specific reference to Thallium going to landfill
was also made. Under REACH, restrictions can be placed on the
manufacture, marketing or use of dangerous substances. No
such restrictions exist in the case of thallium or its compounds.
In addition producers of recovered substances do not have to register
under REACH if the substance has also been registered as a virgin
material. It is therefore difficult to see how REACH can be responsible
for thallium waste ending up in landfills.
More generally on the avoidance of strategic metals
going to landfill, one of the alternatives approaches we do favour
is improved resource use and secondary recovery as a way of companies
both handling risk and developing alternative sources of supply
for key materials. We need to do more to move the focus up the
waste hierarchy to prevent waste originating and to increase secondary
recovery of valuable materials.
This is something we are already examining. For example,
we have tasked WRAP, in our draft strategic steer, to increase
their focus on materials efficiency, thus avoiding waste at the
very outset, but also ensuring maximum economic benefit from those
materials used. They are working with businesses and looking at
the opportunities presented by new business models and the barriers
to the recycling of precious metals, such as actual product design
to aid in the easy separation and recyclability of materials.
Professor Robert Watson
Chief Scientific Adviser
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
16 March 2011