Tyre Industry Response to REACH Legislation
Due to be phased in over the next 10 years, the European Union’s chemical usage legislation REACH – dealing with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances – holds implications for many at all levels of the tyre industry. Most specifically, the legislation’s requirement of businesses to register chemicals they produce or use has obvious repercussions for raw material suppliers and manufacturers. Recognising this, the European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA) – which represents the EU’s 11 top tyre manufacturers, namely Bridgestone, Continental, Cooper Tires, Goodyear Dunlop, Marangoni, Michelin, Mitas, Nokian, Pirelli, Trelleborg Wheel Systems and Vredestein – discussed the progress of researchers over the past 16 months at the international Tyre Industry CEO Meeting in Tokyo on 12 June alongside representatives of the US, Korean and Japanese industries.
REACH coalesces neatly with recent trends within the tyre industry towards increased ecological awareness in that it aims to “improve the protection of human health and the environment through the better and earlier identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances.” Simultaneously, the legislation will lead to the formation of a central database run by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki, from which consumers can gather information about the potential dangers of chemical products and how they should be safely handled.
Indeed, from a more business-minded perspective, the centralisation of information regarding the properties of chemicals has created an opportunity for businesses to share data, thus streamlining the potential costs of the process. The VEN Group (Virtual Enterprise Network) of Yorkshire has been quick to react in providing small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with an online service designed to enable this information-sharing process. The succinctly-titled REACH-VEN service “has many benefits in helping companies to begin to work collaboratively to share costs leading up to full registration,” according to Mark Selby of Denehurst Chemical Safety.
Business Development Director of VEN Jim Thomas expands on the potential usefulness of the online service: “REACH-VEN offers a cost-effective, secure and transparent solution that does not discriminate in favour of any one company, whether they are large or small. [It] follows a very simple process that will quickly and easily help REACH pre-registrants to access the secure platform and the full support of the VEN team… Users of the site can pre-register all of their substances in a single streamlined system that will save them both time and effort.”
Additionally the system can help match up companies dealing with identical substances using the Substance Information Exchange Forum (SIEF) Preparation Consortia. “This gives access to a range of support tools covering registration cost management, legal agreements for confidentiality etc. and VEN’s collaborative platform (including IT systems, directory, and online exhibition space),” states head of competitiveness at Yorkshire Forward, Jim Farmery. In summation, REACH-VEN will allow SMEs to collaborate, finding streamlined ways to meet the requirements of REACH legislation.
The usefulness of enterprises such as REACH-VEN and their SIEF to SMEs that utilise chemical substances is underlined by ETRMA’s Tyre Industry CEO Meeting Statement. The meeting focused on the work of the research group led jointly by Bridgestone, Goodyear and Michelin in the last 16 months, in response to which CEOs acknowledged the program’s “positive results”. It was decided that “further work on tyre materials will be conducted individually within the EU REACH program” and that an additional “US$2.2 million” will be spent on “the study of tyre wear particles due to its complexity.”
The research work was coordinated by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development of Geneva, Switzerland, which liaises with global businesses on issues of environmental or social importance. Thus far two key issues have been researched, namely the improvement of knowledge about materials currently used in the manufacturing of tyres and the particles produced through normal vehicle use on the road.
The statement details research methodologies and the results gathered so far. Researchers “completed preliminary exposure assessments for tyre materials selected from a list of commonly-used tyre materials on the basis of their physical/chemical properties and known gaps in exposure data. These independent assessments showed sufficient margins of safety for human health based on screening models.”
In relation to the latter issue, gathering data is necessarily more complicated: “researchers collected particles using a specially constructed system mounted on a passenger car and truck driven over French roadways. In addition, laboratory generated particles were collected inside road simulators in Germany and Sweden which used tyres moving on real sections of road pavement and simulated driving courses.” Initial results from these tests indicated the complexity of the makeup of roadway particles, including a cocktail of rubber from a variety of tyres and dust, fuel, residues, brake lining residue, small stones and – no doubt – the odd dead squirrel from the road. Likewise, preliminary tests have shown “no acute environmental toxicity”, though further testing of smaller particles will take place soon, with results and conclusions to be presented at future scientific conferences.
Clearly, REACH legislation has initiated a series of new pressures on the tyre industry, and therefore significant research spending of ETRMA companies over the next 18 months will be devoted to expanding the information already gathered. Researchers will be “collecting additional particle samples, conducting additional testing, and identifying a way to track any airborne tyre wear particles in the environment.” At the same time, organisations such as The VEN Group are making more possible the positive action of smaller companies needing to comply with REACH.