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Europe drafting rules to promote plastics reuse and recycling

By: By Keith Nuthall
EUROPEAN PLASTICS NEWS

April 5, 2013

BRUSSELS — The European Commission is considering drafting new European Union legislation promoting the reuse and recycling of plastic waste, and has asked plastics companies to participate in a comprehensive public consultation on the issue.

Brussels has released a green paper on plastic waste, which argues that the commitments to collect and recycle plastic under the EU waste framework directive are insufficiently effective.

A Commission communiqué said companies should say "whether, and how, existing legislation should be adapted to deal with plastic waste and promote re-use, recycling and recovery of plastic waste over landfilling."

The Commission wants views on "the effectiveness of potential recycling targets, and of economic measures such as landfill bans, landfill taxes and pay-as-you-throw schemes." Brussels also wants information on how best to improve the modular and chemical design of plastic to improve recyclability, how to reduce marine litter and whether there is a need to promote biodegradable plastics.

Meanwhile, plastics companies are being asked by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to step forward and lead safety assessments of polymers and plastics ingredients in a current second registration process under Reach. ECHA is concerned that around 700 of the substances industry surveys that had shown EU companies wanted to register this year have not been registered. And no company has said it will coordinate the safety checks required for their registration.

Unregistered chemicals cannot be used in manufacturing within the EU or in imported products where they are manufactured or imported in annual volumes of 100 metric tonnes or more after the May 31 registration deadline.

ECHA has now released a list of substances where it has "so far neither received a lead registrant nomination [to coordinate an assessment] nor a registration…" They include nine polymer-related substances, natural rubber, petroleum resins and paraffin waxes.

These materials were also not registered in the last Reach registration process – for those used or imported in annual quantities exceeding 1,000 metric tons.

The agency has also accepted the results of a European Commission review of Reach, which has concluded the registration process needs reform. The review conclusions were generally positive, saying Reach "functions well and delivers on all the objectives". But in a separate note ECHA said: "While the registration has been successful, ECHA agrees with the Commission's findings that the quality of registration dossiers still needs to improve."

And ECHA has launched a new web-based forum that will enable plastics companies working on classifying and labeling the same chemical under the EU's Reach chemical control system to coordinate their efforts.

Elsewhere, the agency's committee for risk assessment has released advice on whether further restrictions should be placed on the use of phthalates DINP and DIDP, which are currently blocked from toys and childcare articles which can be mouthed by children. The committee said that a "risk from mouthing of toys and childcare articles with DINP and DIDP could not be excluded if the existing restriction on these articles were lifted." But it did not identify further uses posing risks to children or adults. ECHA is to complete a review on these ingredients taking the committee's views into account.