Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Using chemicals for plastics processes

Chemical compounds and reagents used in plastics

If you use or supply chemical substances you must comply with the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) Regulation.

If you manufacture chemicals or import chemicals from outside the European Union (EU) you will have additional duties under the REACH Regulation.

REACH applies to a wide range of chemical substances and chemicals in preparations or mixtures and articles.

Preparations or mixtures that you may use or supply include:

  • coatings, eg paints, varnishes or enamels
  • pigments or dyes, eg carbon black
  • cleaning products, eg surface degreasing agents containing solvents
  • chemicals used to produce manmade fibres including:
    - monomer substances, eg isoprene, styrene
    - anti-degradants, eg antioxidants or ultraviolet absorbers
    - plasticisers or other modifiers, eg extender oils
    - curing agents, eg sulphur or peroxides
    - catalysts or other process additives or aids, eg fillers, oils, release agents
  • chemicals contained within articles, eg ink in plastic printer cartridges.

REACH also applies to chemical substances contained in finished products or articles, whether you are manufacturing or supplying them within the EU, or importing them from outside the EU.

UK REACH Competent Authority: What REACH means for EU importers (Adobe PDF - 221KB)

UK REACH Competent Authority: REACH guidance on articles (Adobe PDF - 110KB)

Exempt substances

Some chemical substances are partially or completely exempt from REACH. See the UK REACH Competent Authority guidance for further information about exemptions. Be aware that exemptions may change.

UK REACH Competent Authority: REACH - exemptions (Adobe PDF - 123KB)

Chemical substances inventory

You should make an inventory or list of chemical substances that your business uses, supplies, manufactures or imports. This will help you understand your responsibilities, what you need to do and the impact REACH will have on your business activities.

UK REACH Competent Authority: Creating an inventory for downstream users of chemicals including formulators (Adobe PDF - 111KB)

Chemicals users' requirements

You are a chemical user if as a part of your work you:

  • use any chemicals or preparations
  • formulate or blend chemical preparations or mixtures
  • use any chemicals, preparations or mixtures to produce articles.

If you use a chemical substance you must make sure that you:

  • identify and follow all appropriate safety measures identified by the chemical's safety data sheet, if required
  • use the substance within its safe exposure limits
  • comply with any restrictions or conditions of authorisation that have been placed on its use.

UK REACH Competent Authority: What REACH means for users of chemicals (Adobe PDF - 63KB)

Information on chemicals use

You should check that your suppliers register all the ways you use the chemicals they supply. This is to make sure that your supply of chemicals will not be disrupted. This may not be necessary if you only use the chemical in the way your supplier intended.

If you have an unusual use for a substance, you should provide your suppliers with details of how you intend to use the chemical. This will allow them to include this information in their registration.

You can choose not to give your suppliers this information if you feel it will compromise your business. In this case you must carry out your own chemical safety assessment. You will normally have to provide this information to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and any final users of the chemical.

ECHA: Chemical safety assessment and report

ECHA: Guidance in a nutshell - chemical safety assessment (Adobe PDF - 173KB)

Your supplier must not supply you with a substance that has not been pre-registered or registered if the substance needs to be.

Restricted chemicals

REACH places restrictions on the marketing and use of certain chemical substances on their own or in preparations. These include substances that are classified as persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) in the environment.

There are two groups of chemicals:

  • substances of very high concern (SVHCs) and Annex XIV (14) substances that require an authorisation for their use
  • Annex XVII (17) substances whose marketing and use is restricted.

A substance can appear in both groups.

Chemicals requiring authorisation

REACH identifies substances with known high risks to human health or the environment as substances of very high concern (SVHCs) and Annex XIV substances. ECHA has produced a proposed candidate list of possible substances of very high concern and a recommended list of substances to be included in Annex XIV.

ECHA

If you supply an article containing a substance on the SVHC candidate list or Annex XIV you must give recipients information on the substance and how to use it safely.

If you supply a substance on its own or in a preparation or mixture you must provide recipients and customers with a safety data sheet.

Depending on which substance you supply and the amount you supply, you may also need to:

  • submit a notification to ECHA
  • get an authorisation for specific uses for that substance if it appears in Annex XIV.

The UK REACH competent authority has produced guidance on substances that require an authorisation.

UK REACH Competent Authority: Substances of very high concern (Adobe PDF - 94 KB)

Annex XVII substances

Annex XVII of REACH contains a list of restricted chemicals with the associated restrictions and concentration limits. More chemicals and restrictions may be added in the future.

Restricted chemicals include:

  • lead carbonates
  • sleadsulphates
  • benzene
  • pentachlorophenol
  • nonylphenol and its ethoxylates
  • cadmium
  • hexachloroethane
  • creosote
  • compounds containing mercury and arsenic.

Annex XVII of REACH is subject to change, you should check it regularly to keep up to date with restrictions on the chemicals you are involved with.

Use the European Union law database and search using the terms 'REACH' with 'Annex XVII' in the simple search window (text search).

European Union: EUR-Lex database

If a chemical is listed in Annex XVII you must not:

  • market or use the chemical for the restrictions outlined
  • market or use any substances, preparations or article containing the chemical for the restrictions outlined
  • allow or cause anyone else to break the rules of a restriction.

Annex XVII chemicals are restricted to protect:

  • workers
  • consumers
  • the environment.

Enforcement of REACH

Different regulators enforce REACH depending on the chemical, your business type and part of the UK you operate in. To check, contact the HSE to find out which regulator you need to speak to.

Health and Safety Executive: REACH helpdesk

UK REACH Competent Authority: Enforcement

Manufacturers, importers and distributors

If you manufacture or import chemical substances into the EU in quantities of one tonne or more per calendar year, you must comply with additional requirements. You must make sure a substance has been pre-registered or registered if it needs to be.

If you manufacture, import or supply chemicals, see our guidance on the REACH Regulation – manufacturing, importing and selling and using chemicals

Chemsec has developed an online resource, the Marketplace,  where businesses can source alternatives to chemicals that have health or environmental impacts. If you produce safer chemicals then you can also present your alternatives to potential customers.

Chemsec: the Marketplace

Further information on complying with REACH

UK REACH competent authority guidance

Health and Safety Executive: REACH

UK REACH Competent Authority: What REACH means for manufacturers (Adobe PDF - 506KB)

UK REACH Competent Authority: What REACH means for EU importers (Adobe PDF - 221KB)

UK REACH Competent Authority: What REACH means for users of chemicals (Adobe PDF - 418KB)

UK REACH Competent Authority: The distributor's role in REACH (Adobe PDF - 96KB)

The HSE operates a UK REACH Competent Authority helpdesk which you can contact directly by email.

UK REACH Competent Authority helpdesk

Reach registration 2018 represents the final deadline for the registration of phase-in substances which are manufactured or imported in quantities greater than 1 tonne per annum.

HSE: REACH Registration 2018

European Chemicals Agency guidance

European Chemicals Agency: Guidance documents

ECHA has set up a helpdesk for queries relating to all aspects of REACH.

European Chemicals Agency: Contact ECHA

Other relevant NetRegs guidance

See our guidance on REACH

Trade associations can help you find alternative chemicals and solutions.

Chemicals industry trade associations

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