A single (group) restriction to address the manufacturing, placing on the market, and use of around 10,000 PFAS in the EU on the basis of their very persistent nature? This is exactly what the national authorities of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden presented to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in the form of a proposal on 7 February 2023. A 6-month public consultation on said proposal has now been launched.
How did this all start? At the Environment Council (meeting between EU environment ministers) of 19 December 2019, the forementioned EU countries alongside certain others (e.g., Italy) put forward/explicitly supported a strategy to ban all “non-essential” uses of PFAS. This was crucially accompanied by the Netherlands communicating its intention to submit a formal proposal with this very purpose in mind. Two initial calls for evidence (11 May 2020 & 19 July 2021) were organized with the intention of gathering data and facilitating the drafting process. Between these consultations the European Commission published its Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability which established the “EU executive’s” ambition to phase out the use of PFAS unless proven essential for society. It is important to note that this “Essential Use” concept, while previously mentioned within the context of restricting PFAS, is still being developed and is, as such, not part of this particular restriction.
Curious to learn how to approach the consultation? Discover our 5 key tips below:
01. Do preparatory work.
Assess how the PFAS restriction is going to affect your business and your sector.
- Which of your products will be affected by the restriction?
- Have you already tested PFAS alternatives?
- Are derogations being considered for your products? If not, do you have relevant data that unmistakably showcases the relevance and importance of a derogation for your product(s)?
The answers to these questions will be key when putting together your response to the consultation.
02. Do not underestimate the consultation’s importance.
It is a key opportunity to make your voice heard and to provide the necessary data. In addition, taking part shows you have a constructive spirit in this process, which is valued by policymakers.
However, do not wait until the last minute to participate in the public consultation. ECHA’s Committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) will be working on their opinions in parallel with the public consultation. RAC will assess the appropriateness of the proposal in addressing risks for human health and the environment, while SEAC will form an opinion on the socio-economic impact of the restriction.
Submit your feedback as early as possible, preferably within 3 months, to make sure that your data is considered.
03. Do rely on strong data to bring your points across.
The restriction proposal made it clear that authorities need more data on PFASs, their properties and their uses to bring an effective restriction.
- Make use of your position as an expert to provide accurate and reliable data on PFASs and their properties compared to alternatives.
- But also provide data as a business that uses these substances: what will be the economic cost of a restriction on your sector, how will this increase the cost of production, how long will it take to adapt to an alternative.
- Include information on the social impact of the restriction, how many jobs you represent, what welfare losses the restriction could entail.
- Answer to the specific questions posed within the consultation, ranging from emissions in the end-of-life phase (e.g., the effectiveness of incineration on the destruction of PFAS) and the impacts proposed concentration limits may have on the technical and economic feasibility of recycling processes.
Without data there will be no derogations. However, if you are still in the process of gathering all of the relevant information, it would be appropriate to mention within your submission that further data will be provided at a later stage. In case of interest, you can find a summary of all the derogations foreseen within the proposal on page 115.
04. Do consider cost-effectiveness.
Consider the ratio between the economic impact of not using the restricted substance and the potential releases to the environment. This estimation will be especially useful in the context of the socio-economic assessment feeding into potential derogations.
05. Do share your experiences with PFASs alternatives.
Use this consultation as the opportunity to provide all useful information on the existence or lack of suitable alternatives.
- You must show that you have tried finding an alternative.
- Technical performance is critical, be specific when describing why the alternatives are not achieving the technical performance of the PFAS you use (quality, durability etc.).
- Substances that are limited by patents or available volume could be strongly argued against as alternatives.
How we can help.
The EU chemical landscape is a complex one with immense impact on businesses across Europe and beyond. At SEC Newgate EU we have a team of dedicated consultants specialised in chemicals policy that help businesses stay ahead of the curve. Do not hesitate to reach out in case of any need for support.
22nd March I Start of the public consultation (6 months)
25th September I End of the consultation
5th April I Online information session for stakeholders
Oct- Dec 2023 I Public Consultation on draft opinions on RAC and SEAC
December 2023 I RAC opinion and SEAC draft opinion
March 2024 I Final committee opinions adopted
2024 I Commission drafts proposal amending Annex XVII REACH (3 months)
2025 I Adopted proposal amending Annex XVII REACH, European Parliament and the Council of the EU have 3 months of scrutiny period.
2026-2027 I Entry into force of the restriction (excluding derogations)