Chemicals in articles: EU LIFE Project AskREACH

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The AskREACH project aims at raising awareness on Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) in articles among the European population, retailers and industry. AskREACH developed the smartphone app Scan4Chem which can be used to readily receive information on SVHCs in consumer articles or send information requests to suppliers. The European Chemicals Regulation REACH provides the legal framework.

Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) can have carcinogenic or endocrine disrupting properties or are very persistent or bio-accumulative in the environment. The European Chemicals Regulation ⁠REACH⁠ stipulates duties to communicate information with regard to SVHCs (Art. 33). If an SVHC is present in an article (at a concentration of more than 0.1% w/w), this information must be communicated to every commercial recipient by every actor along the supply chain. The term “articles” in the REACH Regulation applies to most solid objects used by consumers, including household goods, textiles, shoes, sportswear, furniture, DIY products, electrical & electronic equipment, toys, vehicles, or packaging. Consumers are likewise entitled to receive SVHC relevant information on articles upon request and can use this to make well-informed purchase decisions.

To raise awareness among the European population about their “Right-to-know”, the German Environment Agency (UBA) has launched the EU LIFE project AskREACH in collaboration with 19 project partners from 13 EU Member States. The project focuses on the following objectives:

  • raising awareness about SVHCs in articles, enabling consumers to make responsible purchasing decisions,
  • raising article supplier awareness on compliance with REACH information duties,
  • improving the information flow on SVHCs between consumers and suppliers,
  • improving supply chain communication processes that ultimately aim at substituting SVHCs in articles.

With the smartphone app (Scan4Chem) developed in the AskREACH project, consumers can scan the barcodes of articles. They will then receive information about the presence or absence of SVHCs in these articles directly via the AskREACH database or - if there is no information in the database - they will be able to send a request to the article supplier. The latter can send them the information by e-mail or enter relevant data into the European AskREACH database so that future requests can be answered directly. Data is submitted via a user interface (supplier frontend).

Companies can receive additional support through the project by having access to an IT tool that facilitates communication within the supply chain.

All citizens in the AskREACH partner countries can download the app free of charge from Google Play or App Store. The app is adapted to all relevant languages. If the desired information about an article is not yet available in the database, a request is automatically generated and can be sent by the app user to the article supplier.

Since the end of October 2019, the app has successively been released in the AskREACH partner countries. As of late 2020, the app is available in 15 countries in Europe: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark (Tjek Kemien), Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland (Pytaj o chemię), Portugal, Serbia, Sweden (Kemikalieappen). The aim is to spread the app throughout Europe. Companies will be able to benefit in several ways from the project:

  • Registered companies may use response templates for answering consumer information requests which help to promptly fulfil obligations according to Art. 33 of the REACH regulation, with minimal effort.
  • SVHC article information can also be uploaded in bulk in one step and updated easily when necessary.
  • It is possible to declare that all articles in a barcode range are without SVHCs at concentrations above 0.1% w/w
  • Reminders are sent for information updates every time new substances have been identified as SVHCs.
  • Consumers have immediate access to article information, which means customer support will not have to deal with every individual consumer information request –saving time and effort for both parties.
  • Statistics are available for the suppliers on searches and information requests submitted about their articles. Potential customers appreciate being able to obtain SVHC information directly at the point of sale, so that they make an informed choice before their purchase

The IT tool for SVHC communications along the supply chain helps companies to obtain and manage information on SVHCs in their articles from their upstream suppliers. It is an existing commercial tool that can be tested free of charge by some companies during the project period. It will be optimised and later made generally available for a fee. Companies interested in testing the supply chain tool are invited to contact us at askreach [at] sofia-research [dot] com

The project results will be made available to all EU Member States, EFTA states and EU candidate countries.

Project partners are authorities, scientific institutes and non-governmental consumer and environmental organisations:

  • Austria: Austrian Consumers’ Association (VKI), Friends of the Earth Austria (GLOBAL 2000)
  • Croatia: Friends of the Earth Croatia (ZelHR)
  • Czech Republic: Arnika – Toxics and Waste Programme
  • Denmark: Danish Environmental Protection Agency (DKEPA), Danish Consumer Council (DCC)
  • France: National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks (INERIS)
  • Germany: German Environment Agency (UBA), Baltic Environmental Forum Germany (BEF DE), Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), Society for Institutional Analysis (sofia) at the University of Applied Science Darmstadt
  • Greece: National Observatory of Athens (NOA)
  • Latvia: Baltic Environmental Forum Latvia (BEF LV)
  • Luxembourg: Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST)
  • Poland: Buy Responsibly Foundation (FKO)
  • Portugal: Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System (ZERO)
  • Spain: Ecologístas En Acción (EEA) (exited 2019)
  • Sweden: Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI), Swedish Consumers Association (SCA)
  • Europe: European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

In Estonia, Lithuania and Serbia the app is also available and will be accompanied by campaigns:

  • Estonia: Baltic Environmental Forum Estonia (BEF EE)
  • Lithuania: Baltic Environmental Forum Lithuania (BEF LT)
  • Serbia: Safer Chemicals Alternative (ALHem)

The next country to get the app will be Hungary.

The project started on 1 September 2017 and is funded by the EU LIFE programme (project number LIFE16 GIE/DE/000738). It will run until 30 August 2022. A dedicated website (English only) with detailed information on the project, its progress, results and contact details is available at www.askreach.eu

The information and views set out in this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union or the LIFE AskREACH project.

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