UK REACH survey: high costs and supply chain communications problems.

According to a survey conducted by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), REACH registration has forced some firms to withdraw products from the market. Defra’s REACH Business Impacts Survey collected information from over 150 respondents on the effects of REACH on UK businesses following the first and second registration deadlines, with the intent of developing a “better understanding of how the implementation of [REACH] might be improved.”

The UK Chemicals Stakeholder Forum – an advisory group to the UK government composed of industry, NGOs, trade unions, and academia – reviewed initial results of the survey at a January 28 meeting. Registrants or downstream users comprised the bulk of survey respondents, although some distributors, importers, and trade groups were also included. The survey posed questions specific to the various stages in the supply chain (registrants, distributors, downstream users) and about the quality of support provided by various entities (the Health and Safety Executive, ECHA, trade associations).

On the topic of Substance Information Exchange For a (SIEFs), registrants reported mixed experiences. Costs, time commitment, and workload were some of the major problems associated with SIEFs. However, SIEFs did appear to be effective in data-sharing among businesses to assemble the required data. In addition, participation in SIEFs was found to be easier in 2013 than in 2010.

Twenty-five registrants reported withdrawing substances because of REACH; in 17 cases, the withdrawal was due to the high cost of registration rather than supply chain pressure. The survey also found that most respondents were dissatisfied with the quality of information provided in supply chain communication. Businesses experienced particular difficulties with supply chain communications and confidentiality; customers were reportedly “generally very reluctant to give information about their specific uses.” Of 37 businesses that registered or attempted to register substances imported from outside the EU, nine “experienced difficulty with obtaining information from non-EU suppliers,” due to a lack of understanding of the REACH process and, e.g., the lack of test information from China.

The preliminary survey results did not identify any clear trends on whether registrants would adopt a different approach for the next REACH registration deadline, on June 1, 2018. Changes proposed by some respondents including more planning and spreading of costs, starting the process earlier, and taking a phased approach. With regard to specific concerns to be addressed in advance of the 2018 deadline, the comments revealed two areas of needed improvement: (1) more time; and (2) more guidance from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

Analysis of the survey results are still at an early stage, but the validated findings will be shared with the European Commission and ECHA. Defra plans to commission follow-up interviews in summer 2014 to address issues highlighted in the survey in greater detail.