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Editor-in-chief: Maurizio Roncaccia
Editors: Paul Trouth and Päivi Jokiniemi
Article related to: People and perspectives
Find safer chemicals online
It is not easy to find safer alternatives to harmful substances that you make or use. It takes time, effort and commitment – and while we may have plenty of the latter, the first two commodities are often in short supply. So ChemSec, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Sweden, has launched an online marketplace for buyers and sellers of alternatives to hazardous chemicals. Could this help make your product safer?
Consumers are quite rightly becoming more aware of hazardous chemicals in products. There is clearly a demand and commercial advantage in using safer alternatives, but sometimes it is difficult to find information about the safer chemicals that could replace hazardous ones.
Marketplace for chemicals
ChemSec’s marketplace aims to present information on safer alternatives in an easily categorised and searchable way. It claims to be the first of its kind to offer a business-to-business service for those looking for safer chemicals.
Anna Lennquist. Image: ChemSec.
“Our objective is not only to provide a market opportunity for producers of safer alternatives, but also a one-stop-shop for downstream users looking to substitute hazardous chemicals in their products,” says Anna Lennquist, ChemSec toxicologist and project manager of the marketplace.
The marketplace will work in a similar way to many online tools that people use to connect with each other. You need to create an account and after that you can post adverts – free of charge – to tell other users that you are either selling a safer alternative or looking to buy one.
You can also visit the site without posting any ads yourself. You can scroll through them, filter for industry-specific alternatives or search with specific keywords. “Our approach is similar to an online dating site, but instead of searching for a partner with certain qualities, you can search for a non-halogenated flame retardant fit for a computer motherboard, for example," Dr Lennquist explains.
How do I know if the alternative is safer?
Users are not required to include extensive documents on the alternative they advertise. “The marketplace should rather be a dating site than a database. You do not need to spend much time on creating the ad. But be prepared to back up any claims you make if you're asked,” Dr Lennquist explains.
According to ChemSec, their toxicologists will moderate the marketplace, and those products that do not fulfil the criteria will be removed. The full criteria are explained in the marketplace’s Terms and Conditions, but the main requirement is that the substances or materials offered do not meet the REACH criteria of being substances of very high concern (SVHCs).
However, each company advertising a product or technology is responsible for its quality and safety. “It will be very detrimental to your reputation to claim that you have a safer alternative and later not be able to back it up when contacted by a potential buyer,” Dr Lennquist says.
In the future, ChemSec is planning to introduce a reporting system, which users can use to alert them about a non-compliant ad.
Technical solutions too
The ChemSec marketplace includes both chemical substitutes as well as new technical solutions that can help you to use a safe substance in your process instead of a hazardous one.
“All companies are welcome to create ads for their non-hazardous chemicals and solutions – regardless of the rest of their product portfolios. The user has full control over the way their product is presented, and may remove or add new ads as they please,” Dr Lennquist says.
The marketplace will not only serve companies, but also policy makers, NGOs and academia. It can be useful for investors looking for investment opportunities and researchers who search among different alternatives that are produced and sold on the market. “We hope that all kinds of users, from multinational corporations to SMEs will find the marketplace and can help each other develop safer products,” Dr Lennquist concludes.
What should your marketplace ad contain?
What kind of use/function does your alternative have?
Which substance can it replace?
Which sector can use it?
Which material can it be applied to?
Which legal requirements, standards and third party verifications does the alternative fulfil?
What quantities can you deliver?
Who should potential customers talk to for more information?