Last reviewed 17 November 2023
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published a policy paper on the UK REACH alternative transitional registration model (ATRm).
The paper states that, following the UK’s departure from the EU, the Government established an independent regulatory framework for chemicals known as UK REACH. UK REACH retains both the fundamental approach and key principles of the EU REACH and is focused on ensuring that Great Britain continues to uphold high levels of protection of human health and the environment. EU REACH continues to apply in Northern Ireland under the Windsor Framework.
In response to concerns raised by the chemicals industry about the significant cost to businesses of accessing EU data packages to support UK REACH transitional registrations, Defra, alongside the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (UK REACH regulators), has been exploring options for an ATRm.
The ATRm will aim to reduce the costs to businesses while continuing to ensure the Government’s overarching commitment to high levels of protection of human health and the environment. This has been an intensive review of the way the Government implements UK REACH and the current regulatory framework, including engagement with industry REACH specialists. This statement outlines the policy direction, which the Government are confident meets the objectives of the project.
The review has looked at how UK REACH works as a whole. The starting point is how the intrinsic properties (hazards) of chemicals on the market are identified. In recent years, industry, the scientific community and regulators have significantly increased the global understanding of the hazards of tens of thousands of chemicals. There is now more comprehensive information available on the hazards associated with over 22,000 chemicals commonly used in Europe. While the understanding of hazards is the starting point, it must be complemented with in-depth knowledge of uses and exposure of these chemicals if the Government is to achieve the aim of effective assessment and management of risk. Under EU REACH, data was only available to the UK on the uses and exposure routes of chemicals at the EU level.
In parallel, the Government has drawn significant insights from its initial experience in implementing UK REACH. It has become evident as part of the review, that government regulators do not need to hold a complete replica of all the registration data on all chemical substances held under EU REACH in order for UK REACH to undertake its regulatory work. The Government can adopt a more targeted approach by using information already available and building on work done in the EU and globally to identify areas of emerging risk and shape our regulatory priorities. This will allow the Government to develop the detailed information it holds on chemical substances in a more targeted way.
The Government’s ambition is to establish, for the first time, a more comprehensive picture of where and how chemicals are used in Great Britain. This is to make sure industry is best fulfilling its duty to ensure the safe use of chemicals, enable regulators to assess the level of exposure and risk that chemicals present in Great Britain and take targeted regulatory actions where those risks are deemed unacceptable. The publication of the risk management options analysis for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) earlier this year showed how this approach can work in practice.
Under this approach, the Government can tailor the requirements it set for Great Britain’s registration of chemicals to focus on gathering information on the use and exposure of the chemicals, in particular those of higher concern. The Government can augment this by requiring any further data needed for regulatory purposes in a targeted way, as new or emerging risks are identified by the UK or other global sources.
Progress so far
Significant progress has been made on developing proposals on which to consult in the following areas.
Refining what information on “use and exposure” in Great Britain registrants will need to provide. This is the critical information that the Government would expect industry to have to ensure they fully understand and manage risks, and that Great Britain regulators need to prioritise regulatory action.
Reducing to the essential minimum the “hazard” information required for transitional registrations and intermediates. This will mean that UK REACH registrants will not generally need to access and pay for data packages held by EU industry consortia.
Significant reduction of the estimated £2 billion costs to industry associated with buying or accessing EU hazard information.
Improving regulator powers so that they can require and receive data from registrants quickly for regulatory or risk prioritisation purposes, ensuring the Government can respond to new or emerging risks.
Reviewing the existing fees structure for UK REACH to ensure a more sustainable funding model, including exploring reducing the current fee levels for UK REACH registrations.
Revising the UK REACH restriction processes to ensure the Government has the flexibility to act as quickly as possible where risks have been identified, drawing on work by UK regulators and from other sources.
Alongside this work, Defra is also looking at how the Government might improve the working of REACH in the medium to long term. By introducing these changes and ATRm, the Government can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of UK REACH. It will leave the Government in a stronger position to identify and take action on the chemicals which present the highest risk in Great Britain while ensuring a sensible and pragmatic way to address the costs businesses face in completing the transition of registrations to UK REACH.
The Government intends to consult on fuller details of the policy in early 2024.
The paper can be found at GOV.UK.