The possibility of a blanket ban on ‘forever chemicals’ and its possible impact on the manufacturing sector were the main topics discussed during Malta Enterprise’s ‘Industry Discussion’ session, which debated the revisions to the EU REACH Regulation.

These chemicals are used in various products. This includes cleaning products, water resistant fabrics and some makeup products, among others.

“The main players in Malta’s manufacturing sector were present and intervened during the session,” Malta Enterprise explained.

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 per cent. Surveyed downstream users worry that this may affect up to 63 per cent 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 emphasised that not enough alternatives are currently available to replace the use of PFAS substances. Such alternatives would take years to develop, approve, and implement.

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.”

“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,” Mr Farrugia commented.

Further to these interventions, a panel discussion with a group of leading experts from industry and academia ensued.

Konrad Saur, VP of Innovation and 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 harmonised recycling jurisdiction within the EU and for establishment of more sustainable plants for companies to be able to dispose of their waste.

On the other hand, Osward Armani, HSE and Risk Practitioner at De La Rue Currency Malta, highlighted the importance of employee retention.

He argued that an immediate ban on PFASs without enough time for replacement of these chemicals would force companies to reorganise their workforce, while seeing “a massive increase in production costs as well as the challenged most sectors would face with supply issues.

Emmanuel Singara, Head of 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.”

Meanwhile, Malta Enterprise – through the Economic Intelligence, Research and EU Affairs unit, ensured that it 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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