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Project REACHes out to processors

As it reaches the quarter-way mark of its two-year span, an ongoing collaborative effort focusing on REACH legislation in Europe has reached some preliminary conclusions. For instance, the project has identified varying levels of awareness of REACH at processors across the EU member states and what the group's members call "a severe lack of specific information" about REACH relating to the plastics industry.

REACH is the European Community regulation on chemicals and their safe use (EC 1907/2006). The acronym is derived from its full title, the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical substances. The law entered into force on June 1, 2007.

The ongoing project, called Polymer REACH, is now six months into its two-year program, which will run until the end of 2011. The project is supported by funding of €500,000 from the Leonardo "Lifelong Learning Program" and includes a team of eight European partners, led by Smithers Rapra Technology, working with other consultants and trade group partners from the UK, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Lithuania, and Estonia.

The objective of the project is to develop new content, an e-learning platform and supporting materials specifically for the European plastics industry to help companies, particularly SMEs (small- to medium-sized enterprises), to understand and increase their knowledge of REACH. Industry representatives have complained that the paperwork requirements to follow REACH regulations are beyond the scope most SMEs can maintain, and thus put a heavy burden on exactly these companies. The vast majority of plastics processors and compounders are SMEs.

The project's leadership hopes their efforts will help to bring about the law's planned-for environmental gains, while at the same time lessening the economic burden on companies. These initial findings were derived from a report produced by the group. The report also provides a listing of current sources of information about REACH legislation, as well as contact details for national help-lines. A benchmarking survey done by the project's members, involving 135 interviews, highlighted a lack of awareness or understanding of company responsibilities with regard to REACH.  Indeed, although the law took effect three years ago, almost 80% of companies found difficulty in getting advice on who should be involved with REACH from within their companies.

The 2-year project will be developing an e-learning tool specific to the plastics industry in the coming 12 months. After free registration at the project's website, www.polymer-reach.eu, companies can, at no cost, download copies of the report and also the benchmarking survey. [email protected]

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