05 Sep August Regulatory Updates
- Updates on Battery Regulations: ECHA Takes on New Responsibilities for Safer Batteries
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is stepping up to play a pivotal role in enhancing battery safety across the European Economic Area (EEA). The agency has been tasked with supporting the European Commission in identifying hazardous substances present in batteries or involved in their production process. This initiative aims to make batteries more sustainable throughout their entire lifecycle.
A New Chapter in EU Battery Regulations
As of August 17, 2023, the European Union has updated its regulatory framework concerning batteries. ECHA has been given new responsibilities to assist the European Commission in this endeavor. Specifically, the agency will contribute to a comprehensive report that will investigate substances in batteries that pose risks to human health, environmental safety, or the recycling process for obtaining high-quality raw materials.
This crucial report is slated for completion by December 31, 2027. Work on this report is expected to commence in 2024. The report will not only identify these hazardous substances but will also explore potential follow-up actions, including the possibility of imposing restrictions across the EU.
Beyond the report, the European Commission may also call upon ECHA to draft proposals for restricting harmful substances in both new and waste batteries. ECHA will evaluate these proposals through its specialized committees for Risk Assessment and Socio-Economic Analysis. These committees will assess the effectiveness of the proposed restrictions in mitigating risks and their broader societal impact.
The updated regulations come under the new EU law, Regulation (EU) 2023/1542, which was enacted by the European Parliament and the Council on July 12, 2023. This law amends previous directives and regulations, including Directive 2008/98/EC and Regulation (EU) 2019/1020, and rep
- A Shift in Germany’s Stance on Bisphenols
In a surprising turn of events, Germany has withdrawn its initial proposal to limit the use of bisphenols throughout the European Union. This reversal follows a six-month public consultation, marking an unprecedented move by the proposal’s originator.
The German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) decided to pull back the proposal even before the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) could weigh in. BAuA is now revising the proposal based on the public feedback received and plans to reintroduce it soon.
Key Points of the Original Proposal:
- The original proposal differentiated between ‘free’ and ‘chemically-bound’ bisphenol molecules, with the latter facing fewer restrictions.
- The proposal aimed to limit five specific bisphenols—BPA, BPB, BPS, BPF, and BPAF—due to their potential environmental impact.
Why the Reversal?
- Stakeholder feedback led to a reevaluation of the environmental risks associated with both types of bisphenols.
- Industry players, particularly in plastics and textiles, opposed the proposal, citing impractical testing requirements and high costs.
- Environmental groups argued that the proposal’s scope was too narrow and called for more comprehensive restrictions.
Once revised, the proposal will undergo another round of public consultation and will be reviewed by ECHA’s specialized committees. The European Commission, under the REACH regulation, retains the right to make changes to the proposal, provided a detailed rationale is given.
This development highlights the complexities involved in regulating chemicals like bisphenols, which are widely used in various industries but pose potential risks to the environment.
- EU’s Chips Act Faces Challenges Due to PFAS Restrictions
The European Union’s ambitious Chips Act, aimed at doubling the EU’s global market share in semiconductor production to 20% by 2030, is facing significant hurdles. Industry leaders warn that the proposed restrictions on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) could derail these plans.
The EU plans to invest €47 billion to boost its semiconductor manufacturing capabilities, especially in the wake of global chip shortages. However, companies in the semiconductor and chemical sectors argue that achieving these goals would be nearly impossible without the continued use of PFASs. These substances are crucial for various manufacturing processes and currently have no viable alternatives.
Major players like Infineon Technologies and Dupont have expressed that a blanket ban on PFASs would severely compromise the EU’s competitive edge in semiconductor manufacturing. The SEMI association also stated that such restrictions would be counterproductive to the EU’s objectives. Japanese firms like Nippon Pillar Packaging and Nikki Fron echoed these concerns, suggesting that the EU could even lose its current 10% market share.
The EU has proposed a 12-year derogation period with an 18-month transition for the semiconductor industry to adapt. However, industry experts argue that even this timeframe is insufficient for finding alternatives that meet the technical requirements and safety standards.
Similar concerns have been raised in the United States, where trade associations are cautioning that new PFAS regulations could also hamper semiconductor production.
The EU’s PFAS restrictions are expected to be finalized by 2025 and implemented in 2026-27. With the consultation period ending on September 25, it remains to be seen how these regulations will evolve to balance environmental concerns with industrial ambitions.