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5 chemical topics to keep track of through 2024

Chemical Pollution

5 chemical topics to keep track of through 2024

2024 is already well underway but with more than three-quarters of the year still ahead of us, there’s plenty of interesting stuff in the pipeline. So, what will the coming 10 months hold in store for us? We put a finger in the air to feel which way the wind was blowing and jotted down five chemical aspects to keep an eye on for the remainder of 2024.

Published on 29 Feb 2024

1.  Election year!

Every five years, the EU citizens elect a new European Parliament. An important event as the newly elected members of this parliament will vote on a new President of the EU Commission. As you already know — or have guessed — 2024 is election year in the European Union.

Last time around, the elections gave way to the European Green Deal and its Chemical Strategy for Sustainability, two really important strategy documents to protect human health and the environment in the European Union.

The million-dollar question is therefore: how will this year’s election results affect European chemicals policy?

2.  New sustainability reporting requirements

Starting next year, the European Union will require companies to disclose detailed information on their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices, with a particular focus on the impact on people and planet. 

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) — as it is called — will raise the bar in sustainability reporting, covering not only carbon emissions but also pollution, water, waste, and biodiversity. The new requirements are something investors have been wanting for years as they need much more transparency from companies to make sure their investments are truly sustainable and to minimise financial risks.

This broad approach means that chemicals will play a much more important role in sustainability reporting than they ever have before.

The CSRD has made companies somewhat jittery and nervous about the amount of detailed information that will be required of them, but the new directive is a big and important step forward in terms of dealing with the ongoing chemical pollution crisis.

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3.  “Substitution planning”

Each new year comes with a new set of buzzwords. Some stand the test of time while others fall into oblivion. Last year, “green hydrogen” and “strategic autonomy” were two of the hottest concepts being thrown around at meetings and conferences.

What will be the rave of the town in 2024? Well, one buzzword that already has some foothold in the EU and elsewhere is the concept of “substitution planning”.

The idea, coming from parts of the EU Commission, behind substitution planning is to make the chemicals regulation more efficient by providing derogations from restrictions based on industry-wide substitution plans… laid out by the industry stakeholders themselves. Not optimal in our opinion. With neither strong incentives nor consequences, it will never have the effect the regulators are after. And more importantly, no substitution plan will ever be able to replace an ambitious chemicals regulation.

In any case, this isn’t the last time you’ll hear about substitution planning.

4.  The PFAS ban — still a hot topic

The PFAS restriction proposal was one of the major chemical-related events to happen last year. Following its submission to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the progressive restriction proposal underwent a six-month-long public consultation to gather relevant stakeholder opinions.

With over 5,600 comments from 4,400 organisations, companies and individuals, ECHA received a record-breaking amount of feedback, which goes to show just how important the proposal is.

The proposal is currently being processed by the inner workings of ECHA, but it will surely be one of the main chemical topics being discussed this year as well.

5.  The year of PFAS alternatives

While we’re on the subject of PFAS and the upcoming EU ban, there’s going to be a lot happening around PFAS alternatives this year. Mark our words.

As the whole EU industry is preparing itself for the ban, companies are interested — to say the least — in safer alternatives to use instead. They’re no longer just on the lookout for them, by now they’re desperately scouring the market for safer alternatives to PFAS.

Luckily, new alternatives are popping up all the time and there are now safer alternatives available for most PFAS uses. It’s like we always say — regulation spurs innovation. The upcoming PFAS ban is proof of that.