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Integrating "Green Chemistry" into the Regulatory Framework of European Chemicals Policy

Martin Führ, Julian Schenten and Silke Kleihauer

sofia Studien 2019, No. 2 https://doi.org/10.46850/sofia.9783941627727

20 years ago a concept of “Green Chemistry” was formulated by Paul Anastas and John Warner, aiming at an ambitious agenda to “green” chemical products and processes. Today the concept, laid down in a set of 12 principles, has found support in various arenas. This diffusion was supported by enhancements of the legislative framework; not only in the European Union. Nevertheless industry actors – whilst generally supporting the idea – still see “cost and perception remain barriers to green chemistry uptake”. Thus, the questions arise how additional incentives as well as measures to address the barriers and impediments can be provided. An analysis addressing these questions has to take into account the institutional context for the relevant actors involved in the issue. And it has to reflect the problem perception of the different stakeholders. The supply chain into which the chemicals are distributed are of pivotal importance since they create the demand pull for chemicals designed in accordance with the “Green Chemistry Principles”. Consequently, the scope of this study includes all stages in a chemical’s life-cycle, including the process of designing and producing the final products to which chemical substances contribute. For each stage the most relevant legislative acts, together establishing the regulatory framework of the “chemicals policy” in the EU are analysed. 
In a nutshell the main elements of the study can be summarized as follows: Green Chemistry (GC) is the utilisation of a set of principles that reduces or eliminates the use or generation of hazardous substances in the design, manufacture and application of chemical products. Besides, reaction efficiency, including energy efficiency, and the use of renewable resources are other motives of Green Chemistry. Putting the GC concept in a broader market context, however, it can only prevail if in the perception of the relevant actors it is linked to tangible business cases. Therefore, the study analyses the product context in which chemistry is to be applied, as well as the substance’s entire life-cycle – in other words, the six stages in product innovation processes): 1. Substance design, 2. Production process, 3. Interaction in the supply chain, 4. Product design, 5. Use phase and 6. After use phase of the product (towards a “circular economy”).
The report presents an overview to what extent the existing framework, i.e. legislation and the wider institutional context along the six stages, is setting incentives for actors to adequately address problematic substances and their potential impacts, including the learning processes intended to invoke creativity of various actors to solve challenges posed by these substances. In this respect, measured against the GC and Learning Process assessment criteria, the study identified shortcomings (“delta”) at each stage of product innovation. Some criteria are covered by the regulatory framework and to a relevant extent implemented by the actors. With respect to those criteria, there is thus no priority need for further action. Other criteria are only to a certain degree covered by the regulatory framework, due to various and often interlinked reasons. For those criteria, entry points for options to strengthen or further nuance coverage of the respective principle already exist. Most relevant are the deltas with regard to those instruments that influence the design phase; both for the chemical substance as such and for the end-product containing the substance. Due to the multi-tier supply chains, provisions fostering information, communication and cooperation of the various actors are crucial to underpin the learning processes towards the GCP. The policy options aim to tackle these shortcomings in the context of the respective stage in order to support those actors who are willing to change their attitude and their business decisions towards GC. The findings are in general coherence with the strategies to foster GC identified by the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council.

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