European plastics processors could get caught up in what promises to be the complex, bureaucratic and possibly costly fallout from the European Union's chemical policy review, warned the European Plastics Converters, the region's trade group for processors.
As downstream chemical formulators and users, Europe's thousands of small and medium-size processors are implicated in plans for registration and stringent testing of substances contained in the EU's white paper for chemicals, according to EuPC official Walter Claes.
Under European Commission proposals, the region's chemical manufacturers and importers will need to register and test for safety some 30,000 chemical substances that have been on the market since the 1980s.
Complications for processors could arise when their use of a chemical is other than that registered by the supplier, Claes said in a debate on the white paper at European Plastics Forum 2003, held at the European Parliament in Brussels.
In such cases, the processor will need to complete paperwork including a chemical safety assessment and report it to a new EU chemicals agency, he said. There may be other cases in which the chemical producer never registered the substance, he added.
The debate was joined by Swedish Green Party European Parliament Member Inger Sch"rling, who argued forcefully for a reformed regulatory system for chemicals in Europe.
``That there is insufficient knowledge about the impact of chemicals on human health and the environment is a cause for deep concern. Measures to prevent the release of dangerous chemicals into the environment cannot wait,'' she said.
Of the chemicals currently registered, risks are understood for ``only a handful,'' even though they have been on the market for over 20 years, Sch"rling said.
The guiding principle should be ``no data, no market'' for widely used chemicals, she said. Taking effective action against the most dangerous substances will encourage substitution, promoting innovation, she said. She acknowledged that exemptions are necessary for chemicals used in research and intermediates.
In May 2003, the official EU white paper proposals were issued for two months of consultation with stakeholders. By October, the EU is to present its formal legislative proposals on registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals. Legislation already is a year behind schedule.
The forum, attended by European converters, polymer producers and representatives of the EuPC's sector and national affiliate bodies, was organized jointly by EuPC and the Association of Polymer Manufacturers in Europe.