Regulatory concerns for EU producers and compounders / Titanium dioxide and microplastics restrictions discussed at 2019 EuMBC conference in Brussels
European Masterbatchers and Compounders' (EuMBC, Brussels / Belgium; annual conference took place on 16 May 2019 in Brussels. Organised by Polymer Comply Europe (PCE, Brussels;, the event had speakers from Aimplas, Baerlocher, BusinessEurope, EBRC Consulting, ECHA and the European Commission. Kevin Bradley from BSEF gave a presentation on bromine applications and the association's updated code of best practices, "Vecap", and he spoke to at the meeting about the current edition of Vecap see of 29.05.2019.

EuMBC president Marc Cornu (Ampacet) welcomed the 35 participants and gave a short introduction to the EuMBC, which is a sector of European Plastics Converters (EuPC, Brussels; and currently has 19 member companies. Sebastian Lemp spoke about the REACH "Horizon Scanning Tool", which contains hundreds of raw materials that are matched with regulatory lists and can help compounders avoid legislative surprises.
Looming microplastics restrictions could have big impacts
Two topics that are especially of concern for Europe's masterbatch producers and compounders are regulations on microplastics and titanium dioxide, which are currently being assessed at the European level. Christian Krassing, from the European Commission's DG Grow, gave an overview of the issues on microplastics, which are within the context of the EU plastics strategy see of 19.01.2018. He noted that a number of EU member states, such as Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden and the UK, have taken measures to ban microplastic particles in some products see of 01.02.2019.

The commission is preparing a restriction report; however, Krassing said the direct effect of microplastics on health and the environment are not well known and there is a need for more scientific studies. There are suggestions that microplastics may pose a threat, but benefits of a restriction are also difficult to quantify, he added. The EU predicts that there would be EUR 9 bn in costs over 20 years if a restriction was put into place. In this same time period, banning microbeads in cosmetics only amounts to a saving of 55 t of plastics, according to the commission's estimate.

An EU restriction on microplastics would include prohibition of placing the products on the market, mandatory labelling and mandatory downstream user reporting. Public consultation is currently taking place (from March-September 2019). One hot topic is simply the definition of microplastics, with the European Commission currently setting particles 5 mm in size as the upper limit, which would affect certain masterbatches. During the Q&A period, it was apparent that this upper limit was placed on shaky ground. In addition, the mandatory reporting could be a huge administrative burden to companies, and with what purpose in the end? With global companies like Clariant having users across the world, it is hard to imagine getting uniform reporting in place easily.
EU-wide occupational exposure value for titanium dioxide under discussion
Is titanium dioxide carcinogenic when inhaled? This is currently a major debate for the white pigment, and conclusions on the question could set a precedence if the EU sets restrictions on the classification of powder forms of TiO2. In January 2019, the European Commission proposed to restrict the classification to powder forms, and a vote on the topic was then postponed see of 21.03.2019.

Daniel Vetter, from EBRC Consulting, spoke on the topic and said the industry's position is that TiO2 is not carcinogenic, since it has never been studied in humans. Of note, the scientific experiments correlating TiO2 as a carcinogen were done at high concentrations and using rats. There is debate around what the occupational exposure limit (OEL) could be if implemented across the EU. Several countries have determined their own values for OELs, and Vetter says the OEL in Germany (1.25 mg/m, respirable fraction) could eventually be the value that determines EU laws.

Once an EU decision is reached, implementation of a restriction classification of TiO2 could swiftly impact, among others, Europe's masterbatchers and compounders.
29.05.2019 [242584-0]
Published on 29.05.2019

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