European Researchers to Recommend Substitutions for Hazardous Packaging Chemicals

European Researchers to Recommend Substitutions for Hazardous Packaging Chemicals

A multi-partner effort led by the Food Packaging Forum (FPF) will make a database with more than 4,000 chemicals found in plastic packaging available to the public in July.

The result of a collaboration between a group of NGOs and scientists from organizations such as the Food Packaging Forum, ChemTrust, ChemSec, the University of Gothenburg and Vrije University, the study “Hazardous chemicals in plastic packaging: State of the art, prioritization, and assessment project” was first presented at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) European conference on May 15, 2018.

The researchers are working toward creating a complete database that will provide a complete understanding of the hazardous chemicals present in plastic packaging. However, the team has encountered more roadblocks than expected.

Data availability

The most restrictive issue has been a lack of data. Some companies have declined to provide data, citing it as confidential business information. This left significant gaps, restricting researchers’ ability to fully assess risk and provide risk management recommendations.  

CHEM Trust Executive Director Dr. Michael Warhurst said the restrictions researchers faced show a lack of adequate safety information, adding “it’s shocking that regulators and companies have not yet addressed these issues. Even the EU, with its sophisticated REACH chemicals regulatory system, is not yet properly addressing the twin problems of secrecy and lack of good safety data.”  

Researchers have currently identified 4,311 chemicals that could be present in plastic packaging, 908 that are likely to be in plastic packaging, and classified 145 of them as having the highest environmental hazard risk, based on European Chemical Agency (ECHA)’s Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) harmonized hazard data and EU classifications of chemicals. There are also several hundred substances with inconclusive data due to confidentiality.

Hazardous chemical declarations

As a result of the study, companies may be forced to declare hazardous chemicals in plastic packaging, or face consumer pressure to make substitutions. To facilitate corrective actions, the project team will continue research through 2019, providing recommendations on appropriate chemical substitution options to stakeholders and regulators.

Companies need to ensure packaging meets requirements to ensure regulated can be easily identified and traced. Assent’s Full Material Disclosure Module automates supply chain outreach and facilities the collection of FMDs, which provide full visibility into product composition.

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