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Masterbatchers send strong warning on job losses

European masterbatchers say the EU''s REACH chemicals registration initiative endangers every third job in small to medium-sized operations in Germany alone.

Speaking at last autumn''s Fakuma plastics show in Friendrichshafen, Germany, the Masterbatch Assn., part of Germany''s Verband der Mineralfarbenindustries (VDMI, Frankfurt), says it fears the registration program will increase costs, hinder innovation, cause delays through required new formulations, bring added bureaucracy, and result in a loss of European competitiveness.

Although in late November the European Parliament proposed a somewhat less strict version of the Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) program, at press time it had not announced a final version of the laws affecting compounders and masterbatchers. Under the compromise, the Parliament agreed to limit REACH''s testing requirements for substances produced in low volumes of 1-10 tonnes/yr, as well as reduce the number of chemical substances requiring testing from the 30,000 now being considered to 17,500-20,000. Long-term toxicity tests on the effect of certain chemicals on the environment and on DNA were also abandoned.

Nevertheless, the 17 members of the Masterbatch Assn. still see need for further changes, according to VDMI spokesperson Heike Liewald. "The compromise may result in some reduction in registration costs for masterbatchers and compounds, but the problem of imports from countries not governed by REACH still exists," Liewald says. "It still is unsatisfactory and the VDMI will continue to seek changes and improvements."

"Masterbatchers tend to be small to medium-sized operations. Enormous registration costs, especially for low batch amounts that can make up to 40% of the total output, are expected to burden these operations, which can only lead to a loss of jobs, consolidation, and products that will cost the end-user more," says Martin Kanert, VDMI managing director. Registration costs, depending on sales volumes, are estimated to range as wide as ?20,000 to ?1 million per substance.

Kanert also says that if chemical companies decide to withdraw certain chemicals, colorants, and additives from the market (the Masterbatch Assn. estimates this could be 20-40% of the materials its members use) because registration costs are too high, the result would be a loss of know-how, job migration to countries not governed by REACH, and a brake on innovation.

"I fear that for users of masterbatches, such as the automotive, packaging, and medical industries, the measures will have serious consequences because certain chemicals may no longer be available," says Gunther Lübke from Clariant Masterbatches. "Producers would be forced to offshore their production to non-EU countries. Finished plastics parts from these countries, however, would be able to be imported back into the EU without any difficulty since the REACH legislation does not govern them."

U.S.-based chemicals suppliers are also concerned and "dismayed by the REACH vote." "The revised REACH scheme would not provide the health and environmental benefits envisioned by consumers in Europe and around the world," says American Chemistry Council (ACC; Arlington, VA) president Jack Gerard. The ACC says it supports objectives to protect human health and the environment but "the approved REACH proposal remains unworkable, impractical, and unsuited to provide anticipated health and environmental benefits."

Gerard says the ACC is confounded by the EU Parliament''s "rejection of a risk-based, scientific approach to safe chemicals management. If enacted, manufacturers and consumer product companies from Boston to Bombay that use essential chemical products would be impacted by this misguided scheme."

Also, the DUC (Downstream Users of Chemicals Coordination Group; Brussels) has issued a statement stating it is "very disappointed" by the parliament''s vote that downstream users would be excluded from Substance Information Exchange Forums, which allow for dialogue between producers and importers of chemicals.

Robert Colvin [email protected]

Contact information

American Chemical Council   www.americanchemistry.com
DUCC   www.duccplastform.org
European Union   www.euractiv.com
Verband der Mineralfarbenindustrie e.V.   www.vdmi.de
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