Chemicals management experts meet in Helsinki to celebrate 10 years of REACH: What can we expect?

Lara Visser, Pauline Tawil

This week public authorities, industry leaders, NGOs, academics and the media meet in Finland to discuss chemicals management at the annual Helsinki Chemicals Forum (HCF). As we celebrate 10 years of REACH, stakeholders are invited to share their views on what chemicals legislation has accomplished and where improvements are needed.  The debate is certainly very timely. The ongoing evaluation of REACH and other EU chemical legislation as well as initiatives under the circular economy umbrella should secure interesting exchanges and shed some light on how policy will develop in the next years.

On Thursday, panels will focus on what chemical legislation brought to society in 10 years and how industry has evolved: Can there be a business case for the Sustainable Development Goals? How have chemicals supply chains evolved? It should indeed come as no surprise that things have significantly changed in 10 years for public authorities, industry and society at large. It will be interesting to hear where agendas could reconcile.

On Friday, participants will discuss the issue of substances of concern (SVHCs) in articles. Traditionally the issue was addressed separately in chemical, product and waste legislation. In recent years however, the question of their consistency has emerged, raising increased attention in the context of the EU circular economy action plan. Is European chemical, product and waste legislation fit for the transition towards a circular economy? The European Commission is currently analyzing this interface and will present its findings and possible options by the end of 2017. In the meantime, it will be interesting to hear from the HCF panelists about the international dimension of SVHCs in products.

Chemicals management is at a turning point both at European and global level. In 10 years, REACH has undoubtedly changed the game and contributed to transform the way chemicals management is addressed, in some cases making it a societal and political issue. Events such as the Helsinki Chemicals Forum are therefore the opportunity to reflect on how change has also impacted the way one can successfully engage on subjects that have become increasingly complex.

We will be attending the conference and will share some lessons learned from what the happy few of chemicals management in the world have to say.

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