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Explaining SCIP database obligations
Information on European Union legislation on the use of SVHCs.
An important legal obligation is in force in the European Union (EU) regarding substances of very high concern (SVHCs). For any product placed on the EU market since 5th January 2021 that contains an SVHC above 0.1 per cent, there must be information about both the product and the SVHC entered onto the ‘Substances of Concern in articles or complex articles (Products)’ database. Known as the ‘SCIP database’, this was created by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). It was first introduced under the Waste Framework Directive and is intended to be a central hub for information about SVHCs in articles and products. Before the SCIP database was introduced, there was a concern that this information was not readily available at the waste stage, and that waste operatives may therefore have not known the most efficient way to dispose of these products – or if they were able to be re-used.
What are the obligations?
This obligation is not dissimilar to the requirement already in place under REACH for information sharing down the supply chain if an SVHC is present above 0.1 per cent in articles. However, this information is now more readily available for a wider audience via the SCIP database than it previously was. Not only can waste operatives access this information, but also different authorities can monitor the use of these substances and hopefully use this information to focus on the need for less harmful substitutions.
Consumers can also access this information, which helps to foster the growing awareness in the general public about hazardous substances in products. Consumers should then be able to make informed decisions on whether they would want to purchase an article or product containing a potentially hazardous substance. As a result of the SCIP database, ECHA hopes that alternatives to SVHCs will be used by manufacturers in articles and products, and so information about those substitutes will not need to be provided.
Who is affected by this obligation?
If a supplier of an article, which is defined as ‘any producer or importer of an article, any distributor or other actor in the supply chain who places an article on the market’ and any company that supplies a product that contains a SVHC, there is a requirement to make a notification to the SCIP database. This obligation starts with the first supplier in the supply chain based in the EU. Other downstream users – such as distributors or retailers – would be able to refer to the information already submitted. If a company is not based within the EU – for example, it is in the UK – it does not have a legal requirement to notify the SCIP database. However, if its customers are importing the product into the EU, the company is likely to be asked to supply information to fulfil this requirement, to enable the importer to make the notification.
Placing and making available on the EU market
In very simplistic terms, ‘placing on the market’ is defined as when an individual product is made available on the EU market for the first time. Hence, it is transferred, with the intention of distribution, from the stage of manufacture (if production is within the EU) or transferred from the importer (if production is outside the EU). The only economic operators that can ‘place product on the market’ are therefore manufacturers or importers.
‘Making available on the market’ is when an individual product, already ‘placed on the market’ is supplied on the EU market for distribution, consumption or use, so would be typically further down the supply chain. When ‘made available on the market’, products must have been in compliance with the relevant EU legislation applicable at the time of ‘placing on the market’. Please note the published official definitions of these two terms include much greater detail so these descriptions should not be taken as authoritative text.
Testing at SATRA
SATRA can help to ensure that you uphold this duty by being able to provide targeted testing for these SVHCs on products. As there are 235 chemicals currently listed in the candidate list (as of June 2023), it would be very difficult and expensive to test for each substance individually on every article, and even more so if it contains multiple materials. To reduce this strain on testing budgets, SATRA undertakes screening tests and a targeted approach to assessing articles. Where possible, screening tests are conducted, such as for the metal-containing SVHCs which can all be evaluated simultaneously.
When we assess the substances and therefore identify the tests that are relevant to an individual article, we consider the materials present as some substances are more relevant to specific materials. For example, phthalate plasticisers are likely to be present in flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC). We also enquire whether a treatment has been added to the material, such as a flame retardant or a water-resistant coating, as some of the SVHCs are used for this purpose.
Once a product has been found to contain a substance listed as a substance of very high concern greater than 0.1 per cent, there is now an obligation to create a notification on the SCIP database if this product is being sold within the EU. This notification must be submitted within six months of the SVHC being added to the list. If you require testing to determine whether the notification may be applicable, SATRA is able to assess the materials in articles and provide a testing matrix based on the relevant substances that could be present in your products.
How can we help?
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Please contact SATRA’s chemistry team (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance with testing for substances of very high concern (SVHCs).