Chemicals in articles: EU LIFE Project AskREACH

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

Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) refer to chemicals with e.g. carcinogenic or endocrine disrupting properties or substances deemed of special concern for the environment. The European Chemicals Regulation REACH stipulates duties to communicate information with regard to SVHC (Art. 33). If an SVHC is present in an article (concentration of >0.1% w/w), this information must be communicated to every commercial recipient by every actor in the supply chain. The term “articles” under REACH Regulation applies to most products, including household goods, textiles, shoes, sportswear, furniture, DIY products, electrical & electronic equipment, toys, vehicles, packaging etc. Consumers are likewise entitled to receive SVHC relevant information on articles upon request and can thus use it to make well-informed purchase decisions.

To raise awareness among the European population concerning 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 consumer awareness on SVHC in articles, thus enabling consumers to make responsible purchasing decisions
  • raising article supplier awareness on compliance with REACH information duties,
  • improving the information flow on SVHC between consumers and suppliers, 
  • improving supply chain communication processes that ultimately aim at substituting SVHC in articles.

To achieve the goals set, one of the project main tools is the development of a European database which will be continuously filled with information on SVHC in articles by suppliers. Several large companies already expressed their support for the project and will be the forerunners who enter their article information into the database. Participating suppliers will receive valuable assistance by gaining access to another IT tool under development that facilitates communication in the supply chain and is expected to be available in the second half of 2019.

A smartphone application (app) that connects to the database is also under development. The app will be adapted to all EU languages so that citizens may download and use it freely to immediately obtain information on SVHC in articles. If the desired information is not yet available in the database, an information request can be automatically sent to the article supplier.

The app launch originally scheduled for spring 2019 has been postponed to October 2019. We hope to be able to take into account in AskREACH the developments regarding the SVHC database, which is to be prepared in accordance with Art. 9 of the revised Waste Framework Directive (2018/851/EU).

A preliminary “soft launch” of the AskREACH app will start in June 2019. The aim of the soft launch is to test the app with selected people, to prepare article suppliers for the rising numbers of consumer requests and to give them an opportunity to upload their SVHC information to the database before the AskREACH app is officially launched across the thirteen participating EU Member States.

The project includes two awareness-raising campaigns for consumers and for companies in all participating EU Member States. The campaigns will officially launch early in 2019 and will also be replicated in at least five more EU Member States. Nevertheless, both campaigns are already underway.

Supplier companies will be able to benefit in several ways from the project:

  • Response templates for answering consumer information requests will 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.
  • Reminders will be sent for information updates every time new substances are identified as SVHC.
  • Consumers will have immediate access to article information, which means customer support will not have to deal with every individual consumer information request, thus saving time and effort for both parties.
  • Statistics will be available for the suppliers on searches and information requests submitted about their articles.
  • The planned IT tool for SVHC communication within the supply chain helps companies to get information on SVHC in their articles from their upstream suppliers.

Companies that are interested in participating (e.g. in tests of the IT tools, uploading of their SVHC data to the future database, use of the supply chain tool) are encouraged to get in contact with the project responsibles (AskREACH [at] uba [dot] de).

The project results will be made available to all EU Member States.

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

  • 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: Institut National de l’Environnement Industriel et des Risques (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)
  • Sweden: Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI), Swedish Consumers Association (SCA)
  • Europe: European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

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

Until a European database and AskREACH apps are available consumers may use existing national apps from Denmark (TjekKemien) or Germany (Scan4Chem, ToxFox). Scan4Chem by UBA is available in German and English. It simplifies SVHC requests, but is not yet connected to a database with SVHC information.