Non-toxic from the start
Products that contain chemicals that are hazardous to our health and the environment may be unsuitable to recycle and reuse. To reduce waste and the impact on global climate by consumption, articles need to be designed for a circular economy right from the start.
The Swedish Chemicals Agency was commissioned by the Government of Sweden to strengthen our work for a non-toxic circular economy in Sweden, within the EU and globally during 2021–2022. In our assignment "Non-toxic from the start" we have been working to phase out particularly hazardous substances and to reduce risks with other hazardous substances. We have also worked with non-toxic design and production, development of enforcement and information and guidance. We reported the assignment to the Government in February 2023.
Phase-out and risk reduction
With the aim to phase out particularly hazardous substances we have taken new initiatives within the EU and globally. Our focus has primarily been on chemicals that are widespread in society and the environment.
One of the initiatives is the proposal for a restriction on all PFAS chemicals in the EU, for all use that is not necessary for society. This proposal was prepared together with authorities in four other European countries. We have also worked for restrictions on several particularly hazardous substances on a global level, including the PFAS substance PFHxS. PFAS is a large group of synthetically produced substances that are very persistent in the environment. Some PFASs may harm humans and the environment.
We have also contributed in designing criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors, including to make it possible to phase out such substances in consumer products. Furthermore, we have collaborated with other EU member states on information requirements for the registration of endocrine disruptors in accordance with the REACH regulation.
In addition, we have taken initiatives to reduce the risks with other hazardous substances. At EU level, we have been working to introduce an assessment factor that can be used in risk assessment of mixtures of chemical substances to take combination effects into account. We have also worked for increased information requirements for the large number of chemical substances that are currently used in low volumes, in order to reduce risks before the substances are used more widely.
Non-toxic design and production
As a part of the assignment, we have taken action to promote that articles and materials are non-toxic from the start, i.e. already at the design and production stage. In order to contribute to non-toxic cycles we have worked with activities covering several steps in the cycle: the development stage in a production, the purchase of articles and materials and the reuse and recycling stage. This work involves using patent data to identify chemical risks, chemical requirements in public procurement and making it easier for companies to use information from the EUs SCIP database External link..
Knowledge of chemical regulations is an important prerequisite for companies to be able to ensure that articles and materials are non-toxic from the start. Therefore, we have been working to clarify the regulations, especially for small and medium-sized companies.
Development of enforcement
We have developed methods for enforcement of substances in articles and chemical products, especially aiming to become better at handling challenges resulting from the increasing e-commerce. This work has included efforts to strengthen our cooperation with the Swedish Customs and with authorities in other EU member states. We have also carried out supervision projects concerning recycled material.
Information and guidance
We have been working to strengthen information and guidance regarding the use of recycled raw materials. The initiative contributes to a non-toxic circular economy and to promote the use of recycled materials.
Our guidance is aimed at companies that use or want to use recycled raw materials and at companies that produce recycled raw materials from waste. We have also been working to clarify the demarcation and improve coordination between chemicals and waste legislation.
In this part of the assignment, we have collaborated with the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.
Investigation of obstacles to recycling plastic
We are investigating which substances are obstacles or problematic when it comes to recycling of plastics, foamed plastics and plastic-like materials. This investigation is to be reported to the Government by 1 November 2023.