From 5 January 2021, businesses that supply articles or complex objects (products) containing certain hazardous substances will have to submit information to a new database established by the European Chemicals Agency (“ECHA”). “SCIP” is the database for information on Substances of Concern In articles as such or in complex objects (Products) established under the revised Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC).

The obligation applies to EU producers, assemblers, importers, distributors of articles and other actors in the supply chain placing articles and complex objects on the EU market that contain substances of very high concern (“SVHC”) listed on the Candidate List[1] in a concentration of more than 0.1% weight by weight. Retailers and other actors supplying articles directly and exclusively to consumers are not covered by the obligation.

Technically information required for the SCIP database must already be communicated throughout the supply chain under REACH Article 33(1). This requires that, directly after a substance is included in the Candidate List, suppliers of articles which contain such a substance in a concentration above 0.1% (weight by weight) must provide to the recipients of the article enough information to allow the safe use of the article. As a minimum the name of the substance in question has to be communicated. Recipients are industrial or professional users and distributors, but not consumers. Consumers can request similar information which has to be provided within 45 days, free of charge.

The SCIP database aims to ensure that the information on articles containing Candidate List substances is available throughout the whole lifecycle of products and materials and can be consulted by anyone without delay. This may influence purchasing choices or appropriate re-use or treatment at the waste stage. The information may also be used to identify trends and track the use of substances and the articles in which they are used which will enable stakeholders to consider the impact of regulations on specific substances and products.

Requirements

Suppliers of articles will be required to submit the following on the SCIP Database:

  • information that allows the identification of the article;
  • the name, concentration range and location of the SVHC(s) present in that article; and
  • other information to allow the safe use of the article, including information to ensure the proper management of the article once it becomes waste.

The information will be made publicly available on the ECHA website, except where it constitutes confidential business information.

The SCIP Database prototype[2] is currently available for testing to support duty holders to familiarise themselves with preparing SCIP notifications and in order to test the submission functionalities before the obligations take effect. The final version is expected to be launched in October 2020. It should be noted, however, that all data submitted to ECHA on the SCIP prototype will not be treated as real data to fulfil legal obligations and will be deleted before the final release of the Database.

Comment

ECHA has heralded the SCIP Database as “the start of a new era for waste treatment operators”, with the expectation that the increased information that is made available will help waste operators in the separating, treating and recycling of waste materials. Transparency over the presence of hazardous substances in products is also intended to help consumers make informed choices when purchasing, using and disposing of products and incentivise companies to reduce the use of hazardous substances as part of the EU’s transition towards a circular economy.

For many EU producers and distributors, businesses should begin compiling the relevant data on the affected articles they place on the EU market now to ensure that they are prepared to provide accurate information by 5 January 2021. ECHA is exploring the possibility of using the information already submitted by the upstream supplier to allow duty holders to refer to each other’s notifications in case it concerns the same article, thereby reducing administrative burden and avoiding duplications. This suggestion should be followed up and checked in good time before next year.

All businesses should consider whether they are affected by the new obligations and whether any commercial agreements including contract manufacturing need to be revisited so that the information is immediately accessible and forms part of supply chain due diligence.

For those organisations impacted by change of actor role due to Brexit and particularly those who become EU27 importers for the first time, additional assistance may be required from UK suppliers.

Co-authored by Lucy Charatan.