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REACH 2018: Spotlight on companies
The last deadline to register existing chemicals is only a year away. We spoke to some companies to ask how their preparations are going and what their challenges are.
With less than 400 days to go until 31 May 2018 – the registration deadline for low-volume chemicals – companies should be at full speed with their preparations.
“We have put together an inventory of substances that we market above one tonne a year and that are not exempt from legislation. We have also asked our suppliers what chemicals they will register and informed our customers if a substance will not be available after June 2018. With our non-EU suppliers, we are still considering whether to register ourselves as an importer,” says Suryn de Jager, Regulatory Affairs Manager at a Dutch trader Aako.
Syntor Fine Chemicals, a small and medium-sized company (SME) from the UK, is also clear about its plans. “We mainly register transported isolated intermediates and have made plans for the main substances that we sell. We have given less priority to substances with low commercial value," says Mireia Romeo REACH officer at Syntor.
Stefano Carenzi, Sales Director at Connect Chemicals Italia, says his company is still weighing their options. “We are focusing on substances that add value to our business. In addition, we are trying to agree with our suppliers and customers on how to share the investment costs. This includes finding out whether it will be the Connect Chemicals group or our partner that registers the substance. If we are the one registering the substance, we need to see whether we can fulfil our obligations by buying a letter of access or performing tests to get more data on our chemicals.”
Struggles with some companies
The experiences so far vary, from smooth collaboration to rough negotiations with other registrants.
“We are faced with lead registrants that are slow to give any information about the costs of data or how they determined the price for the letter of access. We have asked them to itemise the costs if we think the letter of access cost is very high compared to the costs of performing new tests. We have also done that if the price for a certain tonnage band is exceptionally high compared to other substances in the same tonnage band,” says Ms de Jager.
Mireia Romeo shares similar experiences. “Some of our registrations have gone smoothly with good collaboration in the substance information exchange forum (SIEF). But with others, we are struggling to cooperate. For example, sometimes the lead registrants ask for unreasonably high prices that are not justified or buy external services only to pass on these charges to the SIEF. We also have registrations that do not move forward, as the lead registrant is a third party representative with no interest in SIEFs with only few companies,” she says.
Karine Van de Velde, Secretary General of the REACH Orphan Substances Consortium (ROSC) is concerned that time will run out for some companies. “When we created ROSC in May 2015, I thought companies would start preparing their 2018 registrations already then, allowing them to spread costs throughout 2015-2018. But many only started in early 2017. Now, companies are starting to realise that they need to take quick decisions. For example, if they need to register a substance that is not yet registered and where nobody has started the work (orphan substance), it can easily take one year to complete, especially if new testing is needed.”
For a smaller company, deciding to register is a big thing, and preparing a registration requires resources that they may not have.
“The main challenge for SMEs is resources. They need to come up with ways of managing the extra costs and finding the people to do the work – on top of their daily work – and follow up on the progress,” says Ms Van de Velde.
Mr Carenzi gives his view from the marketing and sales side: “Our challenge is to recognise the market demand and conditions for our products. I can see that the market conditions are changing – a lot has happened to the economy and for chemical companies. Therefore, it is not easy to decide which substances to register and at what volume.”
Ms de Jager is worried about whether all of her company’s key substances will be registered in time. “We have noticed that the non-EU manufacturers tend to postpone their registration to the last moment. We have put a lot of effort into explaining the importance of timely preparations as the lab capacities are already running low,” she explains.
It is clear that complying with REACH is a demanding task, but it is manageable. Over 10 000 companies have already successfully registered since 2010 with help from the national authorities, industry associations and ECHA. Clear and practical advice, helpdesks and external services are also available for the 2018 registrants.
“ECHA’s website is very helpful, as is the European Chemical Industry Council’s (Cefic) model agreements for SIEFs. We have also used the same consultancy since 2007,” Ms Romeo points out.
Ms de Jager says that her company has used an external service provider for analytical tests, but did not need help from consultants to prepare member dossiers. “We are an active member of the REACH platform of the VHCP, the Dutch trade organisation for chemical distributors, and get the help we need from them,” she explains.
Of course, REACH is not about legal obligations for their own sake. It has a bigger aim of improving the safe use of chemicals for people and the environment. It also brings market opportunities with greener solutions and substitution.
“Because of REACH, we now have a better understanding and knowledge of the human health and environmental hazards of our products. So we are able to better help our customers to handle them safely,” says Ms de Jager and continues, “helping our non-EU suppliers understand REACH and acting as an only representative has also strengthened our relationship with them”.
ROSC’s Karine Van de Velde has a similar view. “I believe in the purpose of REACH to protect human health and the environment – we should all strive for this. I have also noticed that the safety data sheets from companies are including data from their REACH dossiers, whereas a decade ago some safety data sheets were completely blank or of very poor quality. Companies are more aware of what they put on the market and what their product is used for.”
Mr Carenzi agrees on the role and importance of REACH to protect human health and the environment. “The responsibility has shifted from authorities to companies. But not all companies that are willing to comply with the regulation have the same resources. So many companies are complying just so that they can continue marketing their products.”
Ms Romeo admits that, for her company, the purpose of registration is to continue legally on the market. “The most important benefit I see for us is the possibility to carry on our business. Our substances are intermediates handled under strictly controlled conditions, which means that they are consumed directly by industry, and do not affect the public or the environment. Another benefit is that being compliant potentially gives us a competitive advantage,” says Ms Romeo.
Mr Carenzi would also like authorities to ensure a level playing field for the European market. “We need effective enforcement of REACH. My company is investing money to comply with the legal obligations, I think it is only fair to expect the same from others,” he concludes.
Aako BV is a Dutch family-owned company that has been trading chemicals since 1945. It currently operates in sales and marketing of speciality chemicals. The company has 35 staff and an annual turnover of €45 million.
REACH Orphan Substances Consortium (ROSC)
REACH Orphan Substances Consortium was founded in 2015 by three consultancies: ARCHE, Chemservice and KV Consulting Services. ROSC offers potential registrants an opportunity to register their ‘orphan’ substances efficiently. Orphan substances are those substances that have no or limited data and no other company working to register them.
Connect Chemicals Italia Srl
Connect Chemicals Italia Srl is part of a global Connect Chemicals group, which manufactures and distributes specialty chemicals. It operates mainly in the European and US markets for the detergents, cosmetics, lubricants and water treatment industries. The company has six employees and an annual turnover of around €11 million.
Syntor Fine Chemicals Ltd
Syntor is a UK SME that specialises in developing and supplying fine chemicals, intermediates and speciality chemicals to the pharmaceutical, agrochemical, aroma, polymer, and electronic industries. The company has 15 employees and an annual turnover of £4.9 million (€6.2 million).
|From left: Suryn de Jager, Mireia Romeo, Stefano Carenzi and Karine Van de Velde. |
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Interview by Hanna-Kaisa Torkkeli
Top image: ECHA
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