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Side event on Chemicals in Products at CSD18 "Lack of information on chemicals in products is an obstacle in achieving a greener economy" New York, USA : May 6, 2010

A well-attended side event took place at the 18th meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD18), New York on the 6th of May 2010.

Event title: “Lack of information on chemicals in products is an obstacle in achieving a greener economy”

This side event at CSD18 was arranged by the Government of Sweden in collaboration with the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Japan (IGES) and UNEP, and was attended by a relatively large group of interested CSD-attendees. It was held in order to present and discuss the current lack of Information on chemicals in products as one of the obstacles in achieving also a more sustainable handling of resources, and that it therefore, with sufficient cooperative actions, can be one of the keys to sustainable development. The four presentations can be viewed through links below.

Information on Chemicals in Products – a Key to Sustainability, Maria Delvin, Swedish Chemicals Agency
Obstacles In Ensuring Information on Chemicals In Consumer Products, Matthias Bodin, H&M
Enhanced Information Sharing on (Hazardous) Substances in Electronics, Magnus Bengtsson, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
The Chemicals in Products project: status and scope for the ICCM intersessional period, Kaj Madsen, UNEP/DTIE Chemicals Branch

The main messages of the event were:

  1. The flow of materials in the society is also a flow of chemicals. Diffuse emissions of Chemicals in products may affect humans and the environment during production and use of products as well as during recycling and waste management. The Swedish Chemicals Agency highlighted that Information in the whole life-cycle on the content of chemicals in products is an opportunity to make it possible to safely reuse more materials from products. The presence of chemicals in recycled material has to be sufficiently known by designers and producers of products, in order ensure safe reuse. Information can then be one of the keys to a more sustainable development and a greener economy.

  2. H&M emphasized that producers of products as well as retailers need information on chemicals in products, both to be able to comply with legislation, but also to fulfill the expectations from customers. Business risks include the need to protect the brand name and market shares. The markets of products are today global with products produced in one part of the world being transported, used and turned into waste in other continents. To move products is to move chemicals and H&M requires equal guarantees on fulfillment of their requirements from all suppliers.

  3. There is a need for more information on chemicals in products among the recyclers, especially small and medium sized enterprises. However, IGES highlighted that their studies showed that information on chemicals is not enough – recyclers need help to interpret such information and knowledge on how to act on it. And recyclers’ motivation to acquire relevant information and to take appropriate action for improving recycling practices needs to be stimulated. Motivation and incentives is needed (e.g. pressure from legislators or customers) to seek and use information on chemicals in products, and to use this information for improving recycling practices.

  4. There is a general need for improved communication between producers and the end-of-life sector. The greatest hazards associated with electronic waste are found in developing countries. However, improved systems for information on chemicals in products only can be a small part in solving those problems. Strengthened regulation and enforcement, and increased awareness raising are urgently needed.

  5. The growing understanding that the diffuse sources of pollution from chemicals in products on the market can be a problem of global significance that require global solutions in order to avoid multiple standards, has lead to an agreement on the need for international collaboration to increase stakeholders´ access to information on chemicals in products through-out the life cycles of products. At SAICM´s second international conference on chemicals management (ICCM2) in May 2009 the issue was selected as an emerging policy issue that needs to be addressed internationally to achieve sound management of chemicals. UNEP presented the scope and current status of this SAICM initiated project about information on chemicals in products The project will develop specific recommendations for further international cooperative action for consideration at the international conference on chemicals management (ICCM3) in 2012. There are important linkages to the other emerging policy issues such as ewaste, lead in paint and nano.