2018 – ChemSec's year in review

Chemical Pollution

2018 – ChemSec’s year in review

Published on 20 Dec 2018

The turn of the year is approaching fast and all over the world media outlets are reviewing the year that went by.

Who says chemicals can’t be interesting? Not us, anyway.

So without further ado, here’s ChemSec’s year in review, listing some memorable events of 2018.

1. An unprecedented no?

Under the EU’s legal framework, the worst, most harmful industrial chemicals are placed on the so-called Authorisation List, and companies need a permit to use them.

The authorisation process has been heavily criticised by many stakeholders over the years for a number of reasons. But perhaps the most glaring fact about it is that no application – yes, that’s right – no application for authorisation has ever been denied.

Until now perhaps?

There’s ongoing political turmoil regarding an application from Italian textile company Ormezzano, which wants to continue using chrome dye. Most dye houses have already stopped using this technique, as there are viable alternatives.

The case is especially interesting as it perfectly illustrates everything that’s wrong with the authorisation process, and many stakeholders, ChemSec included, are hoping a rejection could set a precedent for future applications where alternatives are available.

2. One database to rule them all

During early summer, news started trickling out that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has been tasked to set up a database and will require companies to report all SVHC chemicals present in all products sold on the EU market to it.

Many were pleased with this, including ChemSec, since chemical transparency for everyday products is long overdue and very much in line with the REACH legislation (which entered into force over ten years ago).

But there were also many who were not so pleased. Some industry players claimed this chemical information is impossible to reveal. Cartoonist Bryan Mathers perhaps illustrated the whole controversy best.

Used with permission from Rethink Plastics

3. A decade of SINs

2018 marked a special year for ChemSec as our SIN List of hazardous chemicals turned 10 years.

What started as a very educated guess on which chemicals would end up on the Candidate List, which had not been launched at the time, has now evolved into one of the toughest and most credible chemical standards in the world.

And the number of users is growing – from procurers in the city of Seattle to progressive chemical producers, big brands and consultancies in Japan.

4. Industry trying “innovate” away environmental legislation

In early December the EU parliament voted in favour of introducing the so-called Innovation Principle into an official EU text. At a glance, the innovation principle sounds great. I mean, who does not like innovation? It’s only when you look a bit closer at it that the cracks start to appear.

Behind the campaign pushing to introduce the new principle is a Brussels-based lobby group called ERF, funded by the likes of Chevron, BASF, Philip Morris, Bayer and others – basically companies whose product portfolios are often targeted by environmental legislation.

Critics fear that the Innovation Principle can be used to trump the EU’s better-be-safe-than-sorry principle – the precautionary principle – which is in place to make sure potentially harmful products are not put on the market. It is still too early to say how this will play out, but rest assured that the Innovation Principle will continue to be discussed in 2019.

5. A market for Marketplace

A growing number of people in the chemical space seem utterly tired of discussing toxic chemicals. The fact they represent a serious problem and that something needs to be done has finally sunk in.

So instead people want to talk about the safer alternatives. In fact, a lot of people wanted to talk about them during 2018.

This year ChemSec’s online platform for safer alternatives, Marketplace, grew its user base by several thousand and the number of alternatives skyrocketed from around 50 at the start of the year, to over 130 in December. Innovative startups and large stock-listed chemical producers – they’re all there.

What’s more – ECHA is using Marketplace to announce public consultations for alternatives. The Walgreens Boots Alliance urges suppliers to use it in their new chemical policy and the Mind the Store campaign hands out extra points for retailers actively endorsing it, for example.

We are convinced there are more smart people with solutions out there that negate the use of toxic chemicals. Look out for them on Marketplace during 2019.

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