REACH: packaging matters too!

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The European LIFE AskREACH project and Scan4Chem app aim to raise awareness among consumers and manufacturers of chemicals in items and, in particular, the presence of substances of very high concern (SVHCs, according to REACH rules). Mixtures (such as foods, household or cleaning products, inks and paints) are not covered by the Scan4Chem app, but their packaging is.

In an article published on 20th September 2021, HEAL, Zero Waste Europe, CHEM Trust, and ClientEarth joined forces to illustrate how harmful chemicals in food packaging can obstruct the circular economy and affect our health.
Packaging is in direct contact with items that are used and/or consumed and the composition of this packaging can also have harmful effects on our health and on the environment. You can be exposed to chemicals of concern by inhalation, ingestion, or even through contact with the skin.

Materials that come into contact with food are covered by European regulation no. 1935/2004, which sets out the general requirements applying to these materials (inertia tests). It states that other specific requirements for some materials may be adopted (which is already the case at a European Union level for plastics, smart materials, ceramics, and regenerated cellulose). In France, there are already specific measures in place for rubber, silicone, aluminium, and stainless steel. However, REACH applies these rules to this food packaging irrespective of these regulations.

Brands and distributors: register your packaging

REACH’s regulations grant a right to know to consumers but also place an obligation on the item’s producers and distributors to communicate and answer consumer questions within 45 days if an item contains more than 0.1% SVHCs.
If a consumer scans a packaged item and then asks the supplier about whether there are any SVHCs in either the item or its packaging, the supplier must answer about both. When the supplier enters this information into the database, it must specify whether the substance is in the item (and, if they so wish, where) or in the packaging.
The AskREACH project provides manufacturers with an easy-to-use database so that the composition of items and their packaging can easily be recorded, enabling consumers to ask their suppliers about whether there are any SVHCs in the items.