PFAS, EPR and Climate: What’s Trending in 2023 and Beyond

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October 11, 2023Sandy Smith, Senior Reporter, 3E News TeamBlog

(Editor’s Note: 3E Co. is expanding news coverage to provide customers with insights into topics that enable a safer, more sustainable world by protecting people, safeguarding products, and helping businesses grow. Deep Dive articles, produced by reporters, feature interviews with subject matter experts and influencers as well as exclusive analysis provided by 3E researchers and consultants.) 

New chemical and climate-related regulations and guidance are continually being adopted by nations around the world, and existing legislation and regulations continue to evolve. Much like trying to hit a moving target, chemical manufacturers and end users need to keep a close eye on legislative and regulatory action if they wish to remain in compliance. 

Although hundreds of new and existing chemical- and climate-related regulations are under scrutiny around the world at any given time, some stand out. For example, as foreseen in the European Union’s (EU) Chemical Strategy for Sustainability, efforts to limit, ban, or phase out production of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was a dominant global regulatory issue in 2022 and 2023 and likely will continue to be of interest in 2024 and beyond. 

The concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR) also is of critical importance to chemical manufacturers. EPR is a mandatory policy requiring manufacturers to take responsibility for their products and packaging through all life cycle stages. 

In the United States, the Biden Administration proposed changes to the Clean Air Act, which are related to climate change and could also have a significant impact on chemical manufacturing in the United States, as well as changes to the Clean Water Act. 

While many regulations impact the chemical industry, 3E experts cited PFAS, EPR, and new air pollution and emissions standards as trending regulatory changes globally and in the United States. For the full breakdown of some of the current and proposed regulations that impact chemical manufacturers and end users, download the full report, “Chemicals and Climate: Where We Stand in 2023 and the Future Trends We’re Tracking.”

3E Analysis

United States: Dozens of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations related to chemicals, clean air, and clean water are on the Spring 2023 regulatory agenda. In total, the EPA’s spring regulatory agenda featured 147 actions, many of which impact the use and distribution of chemicals. Regulatory action designating perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) as Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Hazardous Substances is in the final rule stage at the EPA.

The final rule for the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) 8(a)7, Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, was published 28 September 2023 and identifies reporting and recordkeeping requirements for PFAS.

Europe: EU REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals) ¬is not only impactful in the European Union (EU) but also around the world in various forms. Adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals, REACH also promotes alternative methods for the hazard assessment of substances in order to reduce the number of tests on animals. 

Another major regulatory trend in Europe aims at making supply chains transparent in an effort to enable a circular economy, according to Miriam Schoepel, Senior Chemical Regulatory Compliance Consultant, Regulatory Consulting, EMEA region, 3E Europe GmbH. “A vital part of this will be the introduction of a Digital Product Passport, as introduced by the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation,” she said. “The passport will enable the setting of performance and information requirements for almost all categories of physical goods placed on the EU market.”

In Germany, The Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains (Gesetz über die unternehmerischen Sorgfaltspflichten in Lieferketten (LkSG)) took effect in January 2023 and imposes new obligations on companies with 3,000 or more employees to ensure their suppliers have high standards regarding safety and environmental health. In January 2024, it will be expanded to include companies with 1,000 or more employees. 

ASEAN/AP: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement entered into force in January 2022, covering 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—and five ASEAN free trade agreement (FTA) partners—Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

As part of RCEP coverage, most of the countries, including China, have adopted GHS classification and labeling systems, which requires the SDS and labels of chemicals to comply with the GHS-related regulations and standards of each country and region. 

In fact, many regulatory changes and updates are impacting the members of ASEAN. Continuing to stay aligned with global trends of chemical management such as REACH and GHS, the Asia Pacific (AP) region has adopted a more rigorous and holistic approach in controlling chemical substances and products introduced or circulated in the market, says Kristyn Hong, Associate Director, Asia Pacific, 3E Co., who lists REACH-like management systems as a top trend in the region.

Business Impact:

Terry Wells, Senior Manager, Regulatory Research for North America, 3E Co., noted that of all the proposed regulations and amendments, a few stood out for her in terms of their impact on 3E customers. “The existing chemical risk assessments will have a big impact because they will involve banning some activities and implementing a workplace chemical protection program (WCPP) and the existing chemical exposure limit (ECEL), which have traditionally been in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) purview. The TSCA 8(a)7 PFAS reporting rule will impact both chemical and discrete manufacturers, spans a long timeframe, and will affect so many small businesses.”

Hong noted that for 3E customers, one of the unique REACH-like implementations in the AP region, different from EU REACH, is the continuation of existing chemical inventory management. “Adopting chemical inventories to distinguish existing chemicals from new ones and differentiate restrictions based on inventory status continues to be a dominant measure as we see more jurisdictions develop chemical inventories,” says Hong. 

PFAS-focused chemical control is another trending issue, according to Hong, who says it has become one of the highest priority objectives. “We see increasing regulatory updates in banning or restricting PFAS-containing products from manufacture, import or export, distribution, sale, use, or discharge into the environment, and the trend will only grow in 2024 or beyond,” she says.

Click here for the full report.

Sandy Smith, Senior Reporter, 3E, is an award-winning newspaper reporter and business-to-business journalist who has spent 20+ years researching and writing about EHS, regulatory compliance and risk management and networking with EHS professionals. She is passionate about helping to build and maintain safe workplaces and promote workplace cultures that support EHS. She has presented at major conferences and has been interviewed about workplace safety and risk by The Wall Street Journal, CNN and USA Today.