If you are manufacturing or importing products in the European Union (EU) or United Kingdom (UK), complying with a form of REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) is essential. But understanding the regulation and how to comply with REACH can leave manufacturers with questions, especially as requirements continue to change and new chemicals are added to the REACH Candidate List.

In this article, we’ll break down the background of the legislation, what you need to know as a manufacturer and/or importer and how to comply with REACH so you can keep your products on the market in the EU and UK.

REACH Background

The goal of REACH is to protect both humans and the environment by reducing exposure to harmful chemicals found in products. For years before REACH, chemicals were used in products that were either known to be harmful to human health and/or the environment or had insufficient safety data.

REACH, which is administered by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), was introduced in 2007 to scale back the use of harmful substances in products. It requires manufacturers to gather data on the chemicals used in products and enter that information into a public database. REACH also requires substances of very high concern (SVHCs) to be phased out of products.

EU REACH vs. UK REACH

Since Brexit, the UK has had to develop their own regulations for controlling SVHCs in products. While there was much debate about whether or not a deal could be worked out for continued REACH cooperation between the UK and EU, ultimately it was determined that the UK would have its own system.

The result of this decision was UK REACH. It works much the same way as EU REACH and it is starting out with similar substance requirements. But we can expect to see divergence in the future.

This means that if you are a UK importer, you will need to comply with UK REACH. If you are an EU importer, you will need to comply with EU REACH. If you provide products to both markets, you will need to comply with both the EU and the UK versions of REACH.

The burden for reporting lies with the importers and manufacturers, so if you export goods to the EU or UK you will likely be asked to supply information on the chemicals in your products for compliance, but you do not have to enter information into the database yourself.

How to Comply with REACH

The principal guideline of REACH is “no data, no market.” If you don’t provide chemical data for your products, you can’t have access to the market. Complying with REACH requires understanding your supply chain and the chemicals used in your products as well as the reporting requirements. Here are the steps you should take to comply with REACH.

Understand the Requirements

The first step for complying with REACH is to understand the requirements for your products. If you manufacture one metric ton or more of a substance per year, it must be registered with ECHA in REACH.

ECHA publishes a REACH Candidate List that details substances that are banned or restricted. Familiarize yourself with this list and know if you have any substances on this list.

Also understand that different member states within the EU may have different requirements. While REACH is required throughout the EU, different member states have additional occupational health and safety requirements, which may change your reporting requirements. For example, member states will all require the Safety Data Sheets to be provided in the native language of the jurisdiction into which the products are imported.

Communicate With Your Suppliers

Understanding the chemical makeup of your products is essential to meeting REACH obligations. This starts with clear communication with your suppliers. Getting high-quality data about the chemical makeup of your products will set you up for success in REACH compliance.

Communicate with your suppliers often and get any answers to questions about your materials sooner rather than later. Whenever either regulations or the makeup of your product changes, make sure you are communicating about expectations and deadlines clearly.

Register Chemicals

Once you have high-quality data in hand, you will need to register your product’s materials with REACH. This will include information on the chemicals as well as safe-use instructions that explain how potential risk can be managed.

REACH-IT is the system that supports online registration for REACH. Another option is to use IUCLID, a software that is compatible with REACH.

If you are outside the EU and UK and need to register products with REACH or UK REACH, you will need to use an Only Representative if you do not have an importer registering substances. An Only Representative has offices in the appropriate jurisdictions for EU REACH or UK REACH and can register substances on your behalf. Tetra Tech offers Only Representative services in both the EU and the UK; contact us at reach@tetratech.com to learn more.

If you are registering substances with REACH, you will likely have to comply with the SCIP database as well. Note that IUCLID is also compatible with SCIP.

Move Toward Sustainable Products

If your product contains SVHCs, it is likely that these will be phased out and eventually be banned or highly restricted in the EU. As soon as you can, start substituting hazardous substances with less hazardous ones. This will help you move toward a more sustainable product future and allow you keep your products on the market for years to come.

The REACH Candidate List is updated periodically, so even if you don’t have a substance marked as an SVHC in your product now, this could change in the future. Always stay up to date with both Candidate List changes and changes in the makeup of your products.

Get REACH Support

Although these guidelines for how to comply with REACH apply to many companies, some organizations may have different compliance burdens. Complying with REACH or UK REACH may look different for importers, distributors or downstream users.

For more information on how to comply with REACH, contact Tetra Tech’s REACH experts at reach@tetratech.com. Our team has been working within REACH regulations for years to help companies understand how to comply, communicate with their suppliers and meet requirements successfully.