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Päivi Jokiniemi and Paul Trouth
Article related to: REACH
REACH 2018 - things for SMEs to think about
The REACH registration deadline of 31 May 2018 will see the highest number of registrations to date. It concerns substances manufactured or imported in low volumes, between 1–100 tonnes a year. Many of the companies affected are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
We spoke with Ms Janet Greenwood, Secretary of the UK Chemical Regulations Self Help Group that helps SMEs understand their obligations under REACH and CLP.
Time plays a crucial role for companies that have obligations for the REACH 2018 deadline, especially if they are lead registrants. "My worry is that there are many lead registrant SMEs who think they have plenty of time before the deadline. But if they leave it until mid-2017, they may find that there is no help out there, as most of the testing labs and experienced consultants will be fully booked," Ms Greenwood says.
In her experience with the Self Help Group, it is mostly lead registrant SMEs who need help from a consultant, whereas member registrants can manage with support and training from their peers.
| Janet Greenwood will give a presentation about the preparations for the REACH 2018 deadline from a small company's perspective at ECHA's Stakeholders' Day |
on 25 May 2016.
Letter of access and cost sharing
The letter of access plays a big role in sharing data and results from the core REACH principle of ‘one substance, one registration'. The document, which allows third parties to access data owned by someone else, is also the primary concern for Ms Greenwood.
"The letter of access is very important for SMEs, especially when they have a large product range and, therefore, many REACH registrations to pay for. Some lead registrants seem to be ignoring the guidance on cost sharing, which highlights the need for fair, transparent and non-discriminatory sharing of costs. This means that SMEs have to ask ECHA to intervene, which can be difficult for small companies. In addition, there are some widespread, unfair cost-sharing practices, which tend to increase prices for the lower tonnage band and reduce prices for the higher tonnage band."
According to Ms Greenwood, there also seems to be a cost bias built into the REACH Regulation. "Even where cost sharing is carried out as fairly as possible, the cost per kilo of REACH data is higher for lower tonnage bands than for higher tonnage bands. Most SMEs work with lower tonnage bands and are therefore affected by this imbalance. The Commission and ECHA seems to have recognised that this cost per kilo bias could also apply to REACH registration fees, which may be why they offer discounts for SMEs. It would be good to see SME discounts offered on data as well."
This situation might lead to companies reducing their product ranges, changing their strategy to only manufacture or import substances below one tonne per year, or even closing their businesses. "Ultimately, it could reduce both the number of chemicals on the market and the number of suppliers," she points out.
Missing lead registrants and limited lab capacity
Small companies' registration tasks can be hampered by lead registrants who are not following the rules of REACH. In some cases, the lead registrant is not serious about registering the substance. "SMEs suffer from these situations. In addition, there are cases where a lead registrant exists but cannot provide an estimate of costs for the letter of access," Ms Greenwood explains.
The lack of lab capacity and costs for tests are also challenges that need to be dealt with. "For at least one standard test in the 10 – 100 tonne range, the lab capacity is limited. Issues could also arise for performing other tests as we approach the deadline. To add to that, the costs for testing substance sameness are very high, if you have a non-standard substance that requires extra tests."
What ECHA could do
The Chemical Regulations Self Help Group say that ECHA could be more active in cost sharing and enforcing best practice rather than just waiting for appeals. "Providing a standardised method of cost apportioning and cost sharing or publicising best practice on cost sharing more widely could be some ways for ECHA to help more. However, we appreciate that it is difficult because of the Agency's terms of reference written into the REACH Regulation," Ms Greenwood concludes.
Janet Greenwood's top five tips for SMEs for REACH 2018
Chemical Regulations Self Help Group
The UK Chemical Regulations Self Help Group has members from over 40 chemical manufacturers, formulators and importers, and some downstream users. The group meets four times a year to discuss aspects of REACH and CLP, and occasionally other chemical regulations. It has companies of all sizes as well as many lead and member registrants. The group tries to give answers to common problems instead of focusing on single individual cases.
Text by Julia Sierra
Top image: Fotolia
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