ECHA publishes comprehensive plastic additive inventory

Article by Amanda Jasi

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has published a comprehensive inventory of all of the high-volume plastic additives used to date in the EU. The inventory is expected to provide a better basis for ensuring safe use of these substances.

Additives in plastics are used to achieve desired properties needed to make products fit for purpose and ensure safe use by consumers throughout a product’s service life. The additives recorded in the inventory are antioxidants, antistatics, flame retardants, nucleating agents, plasticisers, pigments, heat stabilisers, and UV/light stabilisers.

Following a two-year project which ended in December 2018 ECHA and 21 industry sector organisations – including manufacturers and downstream users – have generated an inventory characterising more than 400 high-volume plastic additives. High-volume substances were considered those imported at 100 t/y or more.

Using information provided by industry, ECHA and a team of researchers were able to develop a methodology to compare the release potential of additives in a relative and quantitative manner. By comparing the release potentials of additive with the same technical function it might be possible to substitute hazardous substances with safer alternatives.

The project is expected to help industry identify the use and exposure information that is relevant for determining safe use of substances in products, which could trigger the updating of REACH registration dossiers. REACH is an EU regulation concerning the registration, evaluation, and authorisation and restriction of chemicals. The information should be included in registrations and communicated down supply chains so that downstream industries have the correct information about the uses of each substance and its properties.

ECHA and EU member states will use hazard potential information along with use and release information to prioritise substances for in-depth assessment under REACH.

The inventory represents an important step towards improving risk assessment of these substances under REACH and CLP. Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) complements REACH. The regulation aligns previous EU regulations regarding substances and mixtures with the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The GHS is used to communicate the hazards of chemicals with symbols.

Once the required information is available, an analysis will be conducted to assess the impact the project has had on the prioritisation of substances by authorities and on the content and quality of registration dossiers.

The plastic additives inventory will support ECHA’s work on contributing to the 2020 goals of World Summit on Sustainable Development and to the EU’s Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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