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Greater EU SVHC substitution incentives needed – industry

Concept - meeting ©stokkete - Fotolia.com

EU authorities should "motivate" companies to actively look for alternatives to SVHCs by providing "positive incentives", such as tax cuts for producers, industry associations have said.

Their proposal, part of a review calling for improvements to the REACH authorisation process, was sent to the European Commission and Echa last week. It was also forwarded to the members of the Competent Authorities for REACH and CLP (Caracal) ahead of this week's meeting.

The associations suggest EU bodies establish a mechanism that provides "assurance of a minimum period of protection" for companies that invest in alternative processes and to allow them secure returns on investments.

The document was prepared by:

  • SMEunited – the trade body for European SMEs;
  • the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (Acea); 
  • the European Aerospace and Defence Industries Association (ASD); and
  • the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (Clepa).

The protection mechanism should be in place unless there is evidence of "overwhelming" risk from alternative substances, the group added. And to avoid 'regrettable substitution', chosen alternatives with the potential to be added to the authorisation list at a later stage "should be flagged as clearly as possible".

The associations also called for a more level playing field with non-EU companies. Their products are imported into the EU and may contain SVHCs, but they are spared the "burden" of the authorisation process, the group said.

Authorities, they said, could tackle this by:

  • implementing a European programme to support investments in new technologies, or upgrades, such as the Horizon 2020, which already considers substitution projects;
  • member states establishing positive incentives, like subsidies for innovation projects; and
  • supporting activities and enhancing funds for research on alternatives.

In its second Review of REACH, the Commission proposed greater promotion of substitution. NGOs have said that the authorisation process "rewards the laggards and frustrates the frontrunners".

Short timeframe

In their document, the group said the time between an authorisation decision on an SVHC and its sunset date is insufficient. In a "best-case" scenario, a company has less than six months to prepare itself, suppliers and downstream users and this creates "major" disruption to business.

A "reasonable" timescale around new conditions of use for an SVHC should be introduced, they said.

Additionally, they asked for a review of rules for applications covering multiple operators. Applicants in this situation, the group added, have encountered "difficulties" with Echa's Risk Assessment (Rac) and Socio-economic Analysis (Seac) Committees which interpret their documents as "overly broad or not having sufficient detail".

Companies are obliged to "estimate" the risks when data is lacking, but the committees evaluate these as "uncertainties", they said, and penalise them with reduced review periods.

The concerns could be mitigated by a review period based only on the availability of alternatives and the complexity of the sector, they added. And regulators should provide "clear and practical" expectations and review the procedure to monetise risk to human health or the environment.

Earlier this year, Germany called for a political discussion on the consequences of Seac’s "too simplistic" methodology to calculate the impact of chemicals.

SME concerns

SMEs have "huge difficulty" in preparing authorisation applications on their own, the document said. This means "high dependency" on upstream applications. To combat this, the group called for better guidance on these so they can cover a broader group of companies, including SMEs. It also recommended a simplified procedure for low volumes, and exploring the possibility for regional authorisation applications.

SMEunited, formerly Ueapme, recently published a position paper on improving REACH for small and medium enterprises.

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