30 November 2005

The Web
Business Today

New chemicals directive pleases no one

Conrad Dimech

The EU directive for the control of production chemicals, known as Reach, is expected to have negative repercussions on the Maltese economy according to industry leaders.
The Director General of the Federation of Industry, Wilfred Kenely told Business Today that from an administrative, technology and human resources point of view, the directive will place a greater stress than is necessary on the “viability, competitiveness and innovative development of industry.”
Kenely said the directive will particularly have a negative impact on micro-enterprises and SMEs.
But for consumer associations the directive does not go far enough to safeguard the environment and human health.
The Reach directive has been the cause of much acrimony at a European level between those who wanted more stringent controls on toxic chemicals and those who were completely against since it would render industry less competitive.
The compromise solution suggested jointly by Malta and Slovenia calls for a study of chemical substances used in the production of plastics, kitchen utensils, pesticides and textiles with a reduction in the regulatory burden on the registration of low volume substances.
The proposal underlines the need to study products put on the market before 1981 and abolish hazardous chemicals with environmental friendly substitutes.
A spokesman for the ministry for competitiveness and communications told Business Today that whenever possible and feasible, high concern substances should be substituted.
The spokesman added: “We do not favour mandatory substitution. Electronics and engineering sectors would face adverse consequences, as products would have to be redesigned even if one constituent was changed.”
The Maltese-Slovenian proposal made possible to prioritise on low volume substances. At the same time, the compliance costs for registration were reduced by 50 per cent. Originally 60 per cent of low volume substances were vulnerable to withdrawal causing serious consequences on industrial backbone sectors such as semiconductors, pharmaceuticals and engineering. The compromise proposal found wide support in the European Parliament’s plenary vote.
But the Maltese consumers’ organisation insisted the government should put more pressure on the registration of chemicals. The organisation president, Benny Borg Bonello yesterday told Business Today that the priority should be based on potential harmful effects of chemicals rather than volume of production.
At present the proposal will leave some 70,000 substances (out of 100,000) untested.
Benny Borg Bonello said industry should aim to upgrade its product rather than economising on the production cost. “We should take Norway as an example, where they have a higher standard of living,” Borg Bonello said.


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