Will you join us? Collaborating towards better enforcement of EU chemicals legislation: Learning from the textile and fashion sector

Dunja Drmač, Cefic Chemicals Legislation Manager

Dunja Drmač, our Chemicals Legislation Manager, is sharing with us a sneak preview into some of the issues that will be discussed at the Digital Dialogue “Collaborating towards better enforcement of chemicals legislation: Learning from the textile and fashion sector” on 27 October.

Q. Dunja, so why should we care about enforcing EU chemicals safety law in textiles and clothes? What is exactly the problem and how big is it?

The volumes of clothing circulating in the EU market are staggering with 28 billion pieces in circulation annually. It has doubled in the last 15 years. If we consider that 80% of it is imported, there is huge pressure on enforcement authorities to check if these clothes do not contain chemicals banned in the EU. Some non-compliant cases do get reported through the EU Safety Gate system, but many often go unnoticed. With more regulation coming our way under the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, it is important to assess now whether all EU Member States have the enforcement resources and budget to cope with these numbers. It is also critical to have harmonised analytical test methods, as well as lab capacity, to control the potential presence of restricted chemicals.

Q. What are the biggest channels for non-compliant products to enter the EU?

We’ve seen that online platforms are gaining more and more popularity. In 2004, 22% of the EU population was buying online, in 2019, this had grown to 64%. With the COVID pandemic, demand for online platforms further increased by 55%. What is important to distinguish is between the reputable platforms and “the unknowns”. The latter are the “free riders” which do not have any types of controls over the goods sold on these platforms, including chemicals safety checks.

A new project funded by the European Commission called REACH4Textiles exploring solutions for effective market surveillance will bring insights on new types of non-compliances and channels via which “free-riders” access the EU market.

Q.  it sounds like this problem is primarily a task for enforcement authorities in the EU member states. Is there anything the private sector or civil society can help with?

Private sector and civil society can play an important role to improve coordination and sharing data with regulators.  For example, the private sector can alert authorities and provide them with data and sector-specific expertise to identify non-compliant products. Examples exists where certain industry sectors have set up helplines to facilitate reporting of non-compliant articles and convey this information to the competent authorities (e.g. the F-gases sector).

The chemical industry can certainly support the development of analytical test methods to measure the presence of chemicals in certain goods. Such harmonised analytical methods need to be available before a restriction is adopted so that both enforcement authorities and businesses can perform checks.

Similar cooperations and partnerships in the future can help to swiftly identify problematic areas and initiate action.

Thank you Dunja.

If you would like to know more about how to improve enforcement the EU law in imported products, join us on 27 October at 14:30 – 15:45.