The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said it will “temporarily pause” work on a new chemicals strategy for England due to the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.
Defra is now playing an “integral role” in the response to the pandemic, and staff are being moved into new roles to support this work, it said in a statement to chemical stakeholders.
The news comes after the UK also postponed its proceedings on the Environment Bill until 28 April at the earliest, due to the coronavirus outbreak.
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Defra did not say whether publication of the chemicals strategy, originally due in 2022, would also be delayed.
The strategy, which is being developed regardless of the UK’s final relationship with the EU following Brexit, aims to address the presence of harmful chemicals in products and set minimum ecodesign standards.
Defra will also consider how it addresses identification and tracking of chemicals in products across supply chains to support a circular economy.
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A call for evidence will not go out in April as planned and overarching work on the strategy will “stop for now”, the department said.
The aim of the call, already delayed from last year, is to inform the chemicals strategy and help the government to define substances of concern.
Under REACH, SVHCs are identified but these “are not the only substances that can create barriers for recycling”, the strategy says.
The call will also assist Defra in finding and monitoring chemicals in products across global supply chains and to consider different rules for substances in primary and secondary materials.
The ministry said it hopes to continue “some underpinning work”, while stakeholders are encouraged to carry on submitting ideas and evidence “as you have them”.
Meanwhile, Defra has also postponed the next meeting of the UK Chemicals Stakeholder Forum (UKCSF) – its stakeholder group on chemicals policy that includes representatives from government, business and NGOs.
It was to take place on 24 June.
It hopes to “pencil in a date for October soon”, Defra said, adding it was also considering a short online session in June.
Published on chemicalwatch.com