Just days after GDPR came into effect last month, the implementation of another Europe-wide regulation has the potential for far reaching impacts on print.
This is the Reach 2018 regulations which make registration of all chemicals used in the EU mandatory for smaller quantities than previously. Any substance used in the manufacture of a chemical product needs to be registered even when less than 100 tonnes of that material is used each year.
This will force manufacturers to switch to using substitute compounds as the suppliers of the specialist materials used decide it is not worth the costs and hassle of registering supplies where there is limited demand.
The chemicals industry anticipated that 25,000 new chemicals would be registered by 1 June, but by deadline day only 10,954 substances had been registered, 6,753 for the first time. This is well below estimates and perhaps confirm fears that some substances will be retired and replaced rather than registered.
This may mean changes to the recipes of compounds widely used in print, from ink to fount solutions, varnishes and coatings to washes and developers. More specialist products used in limited quantities are most likely to be hit. As a consequence performance and behaviour of these products may change, creating production problems or increasing costs.
Registration is now required when just 1 tonne of a substance is purchased, along with the data sheets spelling out toxicity and handling instructions for these materials. “Suppliers are legally bound to tell us what they are doing,” says Trevor Fielding, at the British Coatings Federation. “Lots of business to business negotiations and discussion have previously been confidential.”
Already ink manufacturers have been hit by shortages in the supply of some of the photo initiators used in UV inks and varnishes.
The fear is that the process may stifle innovation by reducing the palette of compounds that manufacturers can select from to create new products because initial demand is too low and the chemical companies reduce the products are registered under Reach. If the choice of ingredients is constricted, manufacturers will inevitably perhaps end up with a range of me-too products.
One way around this has been to order plentiful stocks ahead of the deadline, says Fielding. “Because it has been bought before the deadline it can be supplied even if the actual compound is not registered.
“We have been offering to be a bridge between our members and their suppliers, helping to identify substances which are subject to IP restrictions.
“There is going to be some impact, but at this point we do not know how great that impact will be. There will certainly be a degree of uncertainty over the next six months. This is not in our members’ control – their suppliers have no legal obligation to tell us their plans.”
The new Reach regulations may force changes in formulations for inks, varnishes and fount solutions as manufacturers find that some substances they have been using are no longer available.