This is how we reach Safe and Sustainable by Design
Posted on

This is how we reach Safe and Sustainable by Design

Sustainability cannot be achieved with hazardous chemicals. This is a reality that is becoming increasingly evident, as we further discover the negative effects on human health and the environment, and as our economy is gradually becoming more circular.

The European Commission has initiated an ambitious work to define criteria for which chemicals and materials are to be considered Safe and Sustainable by Design. This week, ChemSec is submitting our opinion on the topic in a stakeholder survey that will help identify how this can be done.

Today, we are also publishing a position paper, presenting our ideas on how criteria for Safe and Sustainable by Design should be designed and implemented.

Our proposal would efficiently help move industry towards safe and sustainable chemicals, materials and products, perfectly in line with the aims of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.

The key message is that sustainability cannot be achieved with hazardous chemicals – it’s as simple as that.

“Sustainability cannot be achieved with hazardous chemicals – it’s as simple as that”

Introducing the criteria will of course mean that some chemicals and materials will not be considered Safe and Sustainable by Design. They should, over time, be replaced by safer alternatives. If there are no safer alternatives today, it’s important that the criteria create clarity and incentives for industry to invent them.

The negative health and environmental effects of hazardous chemicals should not be underestimated. People have a right to be protected from them, and there is a general public awareness of the problem. A majority of European citizens are very concerned about the use of hazardous chemicals.

“A recent report from ChemSec calculates that the recycling industry would grow by the billions if clean material streams increased by only a small amount”

Hazardous chemicals do not only hurt ordinary people and nature. They also hurt the recycling industry, as they pollute materials that could otherwise be recycled, creating substantial problems for an industry that is essential for the circular economy to work.

A recent report from ChemSec calculates that the recycling industry would grow by the billions if clean material streams increased by only a small amount.

We believe that a core purpose of the criteria for Safe and Sustainable by Design must be to phase out the use of hazardous chemicals by bringing additional information to the market. This should be done by, firstly, establishing if the chemicals and materials are safe. If they are not, they cannot be considered sustainable. Secondly, the market should be informed about other sustainability parameters for the chemicals and materials, such as CO2 emissions and waste in production.

By implementing such criteria for Safe and Sustainable by Design, we will improve the general health of European citizens, provide better protection for the environment and potentially gain a new multibillion recycling industry.

We encourage the European Commission to take this into account in its endeavor. Sustainability cannot be achieved with hazardous chemicals.

Henrik Edin
Henrik Edin
Policy Advisor