To begin with we suggest to disclose chemicals to the GMTS if they fulfill the hazard properties prioritized for information disclosure by the UNEP Chemicals in Products Programme.
- Persistent, bioaccummulative and toxic (PBT)
- Very persistent, very bioaccummulative (vPvB)
- Carcinogens, mutagens, and toxic to reproduction (CMR)
- Endocrine disrupters (EDC)
- Toxic to the nervous system
- Other chemicals of concern
An initial negative list of chemicals fulfilling these criteria can be compiled based on chemicals already regulated by global chemicals and waste conventions, as well as regional progressive legislation. The GMTS list would be a living list, updated as the underlying elements are updated.
Below is an account of elements that we consider relevant.
The Stockholm Convention covers so-called Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) – highly hazardous organic chemicals, stable to biological and physical degradation, and prone to long-range geographical transport. POPs have one or several hazard properties prioritized for information disclosure according to the UNEP CiP Programme. The Convention currently regulates 30 POPs, but does not include transparency or disclosure requirements for their presence in materials and products thereof. Even though the Convention includes an Article (Article 10) on Public Information, Awareness, and Education, it nevertheless, has no formal transparency or disclosure requirements for all of the chemicals the Convention covers. The only exception so far is for the flame retardant Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) in recycled insulation materials. At the sixth Conference of Parties to the Convention, parties agreed to label new building insulation containing HBCD, to provide a simple way for countries to know which products contain it. The report of the meeting inter alia states that countries “shall take necessary measures to ensure that expanded polystyrene and extruded polystyrene containing hexabromocyclododecane can be easily identified by labelling or other means throughout its life cycle”.
In addition, for a few POPs, so called low POPs limits – maximum permissible concentrations – in waste and recycled materials are established or under discussion. However, there is no discussion yet about formal disclosure and transparency requirements.
Lack of transparency and disclosure requirements in the Stockholm Convention undermines its implementation at the national level, as well as countries’ efforts to safely reuse and recycle more materials in the future, which in turn requires transparency for the chemicals in the materials and products thereof.
To somehow address the problem, in 2013 a Draft guidance on sampling, screening and analysis of persistent organic pollutants in products and articles was developed. However, the Guidance is not legally binding and only supports governmental institutions or other stakeholders, including customs or health officers involved in sampling and screening of POPs in products and articles.
The proposed GMTS would support the Stockholm Convention by suggesting a disclosure threshold for POPs in materials and products, thus contributing to better environmental health and safety and a toxic-free circular economy.
The convention regulates international trade in waste that contains hazardous chemicals with one or several hazard properties prioritized for information disclosure according to the UNEPCiP Programme, and partly overlaps with the chemicals under the Stockholm Convention on POPs. The Basel Convention chemicals are already recognized as chemicals of global concern by the global community..
Recently trade with waste plastic polymers, both hazardous and non-hazardous, also became regulated by the Basel Convention via the adopted Plastic Waste Amendments.
Toxic additives – chemicals intentionally added to the plastics to give them specific properties – are currently under discussion. Technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of plastic wastes (UNEP/CHW.16/6/Add.3), prepared by the Governments of China, Japan and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for consideration at the sixteenth Conference of Parties to the Basel Convention, includes a comprehensive list of typical additives in plastic, including those regulated by the Stockholm Convention on POPs.
With the lack of an agreed requirement for transparency and disclosure of information on chemicals in materials and products, plastic waste cannot be sufficiently characterized to confirm if it is subject to the Basel Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure and therefore cannot be recycled in an environmentally sound manner.
International trade in waste will contribute to the supply of secondary raw materials for reuse and recycling. However, to keep hazardous chemicals out of the material cycles and ensure that reuse and recycling are safe to human health and the environment, transparency for chemicals of global concern/particular concern, such as the Basel Convention chemicals, in materials and products is needed.
The Minamata Convention regulates global phase out and eventual elimination of mercury and mercury compounds, which are recognized by the world community as chemicals of global concern. These compounds have one or several properties prioritized for information disclosure according to the UNEP CiP Programme.
Mercury may be present in some waste that could end up in the recycling sector, notably in e- waste.
For example, mercury is in many types of products, including batteries, switches and relays, lamps, other electronic products and non-electronic measuring devices such as thermometers or barometers.
In addition, mercury may be used in cosmetics, pesticides, paints, and vaccines. It may still be identified in many commercial products such as toys, construction materials, plastic.
While mercury in cosmetics and pesticides is subject to GHS requirements and could be disclosed within and outside the supply chain via an ingredient list, for manufactured products or articles the transparency requirements for information about mercury does not exist.
Some products listed in Annex A to the Minamata Convention have commodity codes specifically for customs purposes. However they are not well harmonized between countries and therefore not well differentiated for all products in Annex A e.g. the customs code for thermometers is the same for all thermometers.
Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) under the EU REACH Regulation are identified using the hazard criteria corresponding to the CIP Programme criteria for chemicals prioritized for information disclosure, and the SVHC list, therefore, supports the CiP Programme. SVHCs are characterized with GHS hazard statements, and verified by the OECD standardized tests.
The SVHC list is a living list, and SVHC listed chemicals are only allowed with special time-limited authorization in the EU. If an authorization is not renewed, an SVHC chemical gets a sunset date, after which it may enter the EU REACH restriction list.
SVHCs are regionally recognized as chemicals of particular concern, but globally relevant, as many of them uncontrollably spread in international supply chains for materials and products. Several countries use the EU REACH Regulations as a source of inspiration, or blueprint, for reforming their own national chemicals legislations.
SVHC chemicals under EU REACH Regulation must be disclosed and reported to the EU Chemicals Agency EHCA, if their concentrations equals or exceeds 0.1% (weight/weight) in products and individual product components. The requirement covers products manufactured in the EU, imported to the EU, and even waste that could become secondary raw materials.
Product specific legislation in the EU sometimes haseven lower disclosure thresholds for certain SVHCs than REACH. In such cases, the product specific legislation takes precedence over the REACH SVHC rules. For example, the European Commission Regulation 2016/26 has added to the Annex VII of the REACH Regulation, a product specific provision for Nonylphenolethoxylates (known as NPEs). Since February 3rd 2021, products should comply with the updated provision. The new threshold is very strict, since it does not allow NPEs concentrations to exceed 0,01% (weight/weight). .
In 2021, the ECHA database of Substances of Concern in Products (SCIP) became operational with the goal to provide greater transparency of information about the presence of SVHCs to manufacturers, consumers, and recyclers. The requirement is that all SVHC in concentrations of at least 0.1% by weight in all constituent components of products, including waste and waste materials traded to be reused or recycled, must be reported to ECHA to become included into the public database. This transparency requirement targets all manufacturers in the EU, as well as importers of materials and products to be placed on the EU market.
The chemicals of the EU RoHs Directive have one or several of the hazard properties prioritized for information disclosure according to the UNEP CiP Programme.
Although originally a regional regulation in the EU, the RoHs Directive has served as a blueprint for corresponding legislation for hazardous chemicals in electrical and electronic appliances in many countries.
The list of chemicals in the RoHs Directive is a living list and includes lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and polybrominated biphenyls. The restriction threshold is 0.1%.
The Montreal Protocol regulates the global phase out and eventual elimination of fluorinated and brominated hydrocarbons harmful to the ozone layer. These chemicals are already recognized as chemicals of global concern by the world community, and have one or several hazard properties prioritized for information disclosure according to the CiP Programme.
The Protocol, nevertheless, does not include formal transparency requirements, which undermines safe handling of products and waste that may still contain hazardous chemicals regulated by the Protocol.
This list may complement with additional carcinogens not covered by the chemical conventions, the REACH Regulation SVHC list, or the list in the EU RoHs Directive. IARC is a WHO and UN research facility, and as such is globally recognized and credible.