Today, the Commission adopted a recommendation and its annex to promote research and innovation for safer and more sustainable chemicals and materials. The proposed European framework is an important step to increase the protection of human health and the environment against hazardous substances and improve the circularity of chemicals and materials.
The ‘safe and sustainable by design’ framework encourages innovation to replace hazardous substances in products and processes, for example in food-contact materials, like plastic wrap or food containers, textiles or information and communications technologies products, such as laptops or tablets. It aims to develop new chemicals and materials, optimise or redesign production processes and the use of substances currently on the market to improve their safety and sustainability.
Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said:
We need to make sure that chemicals and materials are produced and used safely, for us and the environment: our health should always come first. Putting these recommendations into practice will ensure Europe leads the way and sets the standards for safer and more sustainable substances, globally. EU research and innovation will contribute to the green transition even more, while boosting its competitiveness.
Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:
We owe our well-being and high living standards to the many useful chemicals that people have invented over the past 100 years. However, many of these have also been harmful to our health and the environment. Today, and for the future of our planet, we want chemicals to perform their useful functions without causing any harm at any stage of their life cycle. Together with our work on stricter regulation to phase out the most harmful chemicals, safe and sustainable by design chemicals will largely contribute towards a toxic-free environment.
The Commission invites Member States, industry, academia, research and technology organisations to use the recommendations in their R&I activities to lead the way for safer and more sustainable substances thus increasing their share on the EU market and globally.
The recommendation launches a testing period and a voluntary reporting mechanism. Based on the feedback, the Commission will launch a revision of the framework. The testing period counts on the engagement of industry, academia, research community and support from Member States.
To highlight the current research and innovation areas crucial for accelerating the transition to safe and sustainable chemicals and materials, the Commission has recently published a Strategic Research and Innovation Plan (SRIP). The aim of the SRIP is to guide R&I funders in their decisions on investments across EU, national and private funding programmes. The Horizon Europe work programme 2023-2024, adopted on December 6, will address strategic R&I actions identified in the SRIP.
First announced in the 2020 Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, the present framework, provides authorities, scientists and companies with guidance on the design of chemicals and materials and assessment of safety and sustainability throughout their entire lifecycle
The 2020 Eurobarometer survey on protecting the environment shows that 84% of Europeans are worried about the health impact of chemicals in everyday products, and 90% are worried about environmental impact. Currently several hundred substances are considered to be ‘of very high concern’ by the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation (REACH). The Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) developed the wider scientific basis for the proposed framework.
- Infographic on ‘safe and sustainable by design’ chemicals and materials.
- Link to recorded webinar with details on the Recommendation, assessment framework and testing period.
- Illustrative example of the reporting template, an updated version will be available in March-April 2023.
- Communication on Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability: Towards a toxic-free environment
- JRC Report “Safe and sustainable by design chemicals and materials - Framework for the definition of criteria and evaluation procedure for chemicals and materials”
- JRC Report “Safe and Sustainable by Design chemicals and materials Review of safety and sustainability dimensions, aspects, methods, indicators, and tools”
- Advanced Materials & Chemicals webpage
- 8 December 2022
- Generaldirektoratet for Forskning og Innovation