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Industry leaders discuss the impact of a blanket ban on ‘forever chemicals’

The possibility of a blanket ban on ‘forever chemicals’ and its possible impact on the manufacturing sector were the main topics of discussion during Malta Enterprise’s ‘Industry Discussion’ session, which debated the revisions to the EU REACH Regulation. These chemicals are used in a number of products including certain cleaning products, water resistant fabrics and some makeup products amongst others.  The main players in Malta’s manufacturing sector were present and intervened during the session.

Dr. Patricia Munoz, Sector Group Manager at the Brussels-based Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), delivered a presentation explaining the legislative dynamics of the proposed revision to the REACH Regulation outlining the possible social and economic impacts of a potential ban on the manufacturing, placing on the market and use of PFASs.

Cefic’s recent economic impact assessment showed that most surveyed manufacturers fear that an EU-wide blanket ban may lead to their total workforce being reduced by roughly 30%. Surveyed downstream users worry that this may affect up to 63% of their turnover.

She stated that once the discussions and negotiations commence at EU fora, a decision might take years to materialise. Yet, the industry should keep abreast of this dossier.  Dr Munoz emphasized that not enough alternatives are currently available to replace the use of PFAS substances. Such alternatives would take years to develop, approve, and implement.

Driving our green agenda while ensuring Europe’s competitiveness

In his remarks, Malta Enterprise CEO, Kurt Farrugia, stressed the importance of sustainable practices in our industry and that the Government of Malta is committed to supporting businesses in their transition to more environmental operations.  He said that at this early stage of discussions, we must find the right balance between driving our green agenda while ensuring Europe’s competitiveness by adopting a science-based, common sense approach to any changes being proposed while consulting the industry at all times.

A panel discussion with a group of leading experts from industry and academia ensued. 

Dr. Konrad Saur, VP of Innovation & Technology at Trelleborg Malta, argued for a more balanced and differentiated approach to PFAS restrictions since not all PFAS chemicals have the same effects. He also advocated for a harmonized recycling jurisdiction within the EU and for the establishment of more sustainable plants for companies to be able to dispose of their waste.

Mr. Osward Armani, HSE & Risk Practitioner at De La Rue Currency Malta, emphasised the importance of employee retention and argued that an immediate ban on PFASs without enough time for replacement of these chemicals would force companies to reorganize their workforce, while seeing a massive increase in production costs as well as the challenges most sectors would face with supply issues.

Prof. Emmanuel Sinagra, Head of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Malta stressed that going for a total ban would require time and an amount of research to be carried out since it may not be possible for industry to secure alternatives.

Malta Enterprise, through the Economic Intelligence, Research and EU Affairs unit, will continue to play an active role in engaging and informing the industry in advance of forthcoming EU dossiers that may impact various economic sectors.

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