The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (hereafter: RIVM) recently investigated how the bio-based economy, more specifically the bio-based chemistry sector, relates to the EU REACH Regulation on chemicals. From this investigation, RIVM learnt that REACH may actually be an opportunity rather than the administrative hurdle that it is often perceived to be.
To conduct their analysis, RIVM provided an overview of the daily practice issues encountered by bio-based companies with respect to their roles and obligations under REACH. The analysis was performed on the bio-based economy-related queries received by the Dutch REACH helpdesk between 2013 and 2015. The issues were grouped and discussed under the REACH process categories that they pertain to, namely: registration, authorisation and restriction. The majority of questions submitted focussed on registration and exemption opportunities.
It is well known that smaller companies, in particular, perceive REACH as a hurdle and often do not have enough knowledge about the consequences that this legislation can have on their own business situation. For aspects like the scope and applicability of REACH exemptions, what is most important is that better clarifications are provided which give companies insight into their duties and show what possibilities there are for them to use exemption clauses. The more complex issues, such as those concerning substance identity and resource recovery from waste, require attention from policy makers. Details about the borderlines between waste, which is covered by specific legislation, and the substances and products which fall under the remit of REACH, need to be more clearly elaborated.
From a legal and safety perspective it is useful, and understandable, that 'a chemical is a chemical' under the REACH regulation, irrespective of the source feedstock. However, from a practical point of view, it is noted that some registration exemptions may be specifically applicable to bio-based manufacturers. This means that if certain conditions are met, the REACH registration obligations will be less of a burden to some of the bio-based manufacturers. REACH also offers all bio-based manufacturers the opportunity to develop safe bio-based alternatives to substances which are currently of very high concern.