Chemicals are the building blocks for several of the products we come across in our daily lives. Chemical production in the EU accounts for about 13.5% of total chemical production all over the world. Given this number and the fact that chemicals are the building blocks for several products, the EU chemicals sector is highly regulated.
Within Europe, chemicals are predominantly regulated through comprehensive legislations, among which the most relevant are Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) and Classification, Labelling and Packaging of chemical substances (CLP).
REACH, which came into force in 2008, aims at improving the protection of human health and environment, as well as enhancing innovation and competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. Currently, about 21,551 substances have been submitted to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) under REACH. Other groups of chemicals such as fertilisers, biocides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics are addressed by other legislations.
Standards in the chemicals sector have three main objectives:
- they support the EU Circular Economy package, creating a market for secondary raw materials without endangering human health and environment due to the presence of hazardous chemicals;
- they aid the replacement of non-sustainable chemicals with the use of sustainable ones, by identifying gaps and proposing future standardization activities;
- they harness developments in Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) identified by the EU, such as nanotechnologies, to support EU’s industrial policy.