Sven Giegold
Mitglied der Grünen/EFA-Fraktion im Europaparlament

Sprecher Europagruppe Grüne

Chemicals of the future: Green measures for a toxic-free, sustainable and competitive chemical industry

chemie, chemikalien, chemicals

Dear friends,

dear interested,

The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety is currently working on a resolution on a European chemicals strategy for sustainability. In its European Green Deal, the European Commission has announced to present such a strategy this year in order to move closer to the goal of a toxic-free environment. On behalf of the Group of the Greens/EFA, I submitted our proposals today. Our catalog of measures for the future of the chemical industry aims to enable toxic-free, innovative, competitive and sustainable production. We want to ensure that in future all citizens are better protected against toxic chemicals. This holds especially true for substances in products that we cannot do without like toys, cosmetics or food packaging. At the same time, our suggestions shall contribute that sustainable chemicals will be “Made in Europe”. The European industry is only prepared for the future if good innovations make it the market leader for sustainable chemicals that we can use without endangering people and the environment. We worked with numerous experts from civil society, science and business on our proposals. Our suggestions focus on these key points:

The goal must be a toxic-free, sustainable and innovative chemical industry that protects the health of people and nature. We therefore ask the EU Commission to propose measures that avoid the use of non-essential hazardous chemicals as far as possible and to replace them with safer alternatives. For us, sustainability also means that human rights are protected in the entire production process and finite resources are saved. For this we demand among other things:

  • An action plan to close loopholes and gaps in the different laws for everyday products. It is currently possible that a toxic chemical is banned in one product category but allowed in other products. We want measures to apply horizontally to all products. The most urgent products include toys, textiles and hygiene articles. A higher level of protection against toxic chemicals should also be guaranteed for materials in contact with food.
  • Rules for endocrine disruptors, neurotoxic and persistent mobile substances are to be tightened. For endocrine disruptors in particular, we propose a whole package of measures to remove these highly dangerous substances from everyday products as soon as possible. For example, the Commission should develop a definition for endocrine disruptors and, on this basis, revise laws on toys, cosmetics and food contact materials to ban them in these products.
  • All relevant laws are to be adapted to ensure that nanomaterials, meaning particularly small materials, do not pose a health or environmental hazard. These substances can be found, for example, in cosmetic products, paints, medicines and textiles.
  • We want the EU Commission to make concrete proposals to reduce the use of dangerous pesticides as soon as possible.
  • For a toxic-free circular economy, the same rules and laws must apply for recycled materials as for new products. This is the only way to ensure that we do not endlessly recycle toxic substances. At the moment, there are often less stringent limits for toxic substances in recycled products.

Promote industrial competitiveness and innovation with chemicals policy. 

Instead of exposing European companies to a global race to the bottom, we want to use their innovative potential to produce advanced and sustainable chemicals. We want to set the highest standards in Europe in order to lift the global industry to our level. The Commission’s strategy is specifically intended to help the chemical industry achieve climate neutrality and toxic-free products. This improves competitiveness and ensures safe and sustainable innovation for EU industry.

EU member states need to better implement applicable EU law. 

Current European laws are often good, but there are large implementation gaps in the member states.

  • For example, banned substances can frequently be found in imported toys. We want to urge the EU Commission and national governments to implement EU laws more consistently.
  • This also applies to European manufacturers who still violate the rules years after European chemicals law came into force. We demand that the manufacturers finally update the information on the substances in circulation and adapt them to the existing rules by 2021 at the latest.

By this way, we want to ensure that the European chemical industry can achieve one of the important goals of the European Green Deal, the toxic-free environment, as soon as possible. We will discuss and vote on our proposals and the ideas of the other groups in the Environment Committee on June 24th or 25th. In the meantime, in discussions with all other groups, I will work for a sustainable and future-proof chemical industry.

With European greetings,

Sven Giegold

 

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Background information

Link to the draft text agreed on staff-level: https://sven-giegold.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Chemicals-Strategy_draft-motion.pdf

Link to the document with all Green Amendments: https://sven-giegold.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Chemicals-Strategy_Amendments-Giegold.pdf

Our most important amendments (in bold and italics):

Goal of the strategy:

  1. Calls on the Commission to come up with a comprehensive chemicals strategy for sustainability to bring about, in conjunction with the new Circular Economy Action Plan and the new Industrial Strategy, the necessary paradigm shift to implement the zero-pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment, ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment, fostering innovation in sustainable chemicals based on a toxic-free hierarchy of measures as a prerequisite for a resource-efficient, circular, safe, sustainable and competitive economy;

Increased protection of human health and the environment

  1. Stresses that the chemicals strategy for sustainability should implement a toxic-free hierarchy of measures, starting with avoidance of non-essential uses and substitution of hazardous substances, then minimisation of exposure to hazardous substances, then elimination of hazardous legacy substances, and lastly remediation of damage;

8 a. Calls on the Commission to present as part of the chemicals strategy for sustainability an action plan to close the gaps in the current legal framework, giving priority to products consumers come into close and frequent contact with, such as textiles, furniture, children’s products and absorbent hygiene products;

  1. Stresses that the legislation on food contact materials should be revised to achieve a coherent, protective approach to the safety of materials and products that come into contact with food in line with CLP and REACH; insists in particular on the need for comprehensive, harmonised regulation of all food contact materials based on the principle of ‘no data, no market’, effective enforcement and improved information to consumers1a; calls for a ban of substances of very high concern in food contact materials;

26 a. Calls on the Commission to set specific targets to significantly reduce both the use of chemical pesticides and the risk arising from them;

Innovation and competitiveness

2 b. Calls on the Commission to use the chemicals strategy for sustainability as an opportunity to further the Union’s competitiveness in safe and sustainable chemicals by transiting the market to one of safe and sustainable chemicals with high standards for the protection of health and the environment, sustainable resource use and full respect for human rights;

  1. Points out that the strategy should help the chemical industry to reach climate-neutrality and the zero pollution objective for a toxic-free environment as well as support the good functioning of the internal market and thereby enhance the competitiveness and safe and sustainable innovation of EU industry;

Implementation of EU law

36 a. Calls on the Commission to audit the enforcement systems in Member States with regard to chemicals legislation and to make recommendations for improvement, strengthen cooperation and coordination between enforcement bodies, and propose EU enforcement instruments, where necessary; calls on the Commission to make use of the powers granted under article 11 (4) of Regulation (EU) 2019/1020 in order to ensure adequate testing of products across the Union;

36 b. Calls on the Commission to take swift legal action when it establishes that EU chemicals laws are not being observed; recalls its observation of 16 January 2020 that procedures have to be more efficient in the field of environmental infringements; calls on the Commission to review its internal guidelines on infringement procedures and to make use of the forthcoming Communication on Better Regulation to ensure fast and efficient enforcement of European laws;

  1. Calls for the strategy to significantly improve the implementation of REACH, with regard to registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction; reiterates the principle of ‘no data, no market’; insists that all registrations of substances have to be compliant by the end of 2021 at the latest; calls for ensuring the mandatory updating of registration dossiers, based on latest available science, so that registrations stay compliant; calls for transparency with regard to the compliance with registration obligations, and for giving explicit power to ECHA to withdraw registration numbers in case of continued non-compliance;