Revision of the Detergents Regulation (REFIT)

In “A European Green Deal”

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The European Commission work programme for 2022 includes a revision of Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 on the making available and placing on the market of detergents. The Commission proposal was initially planned for the fourth quarter of 2022 but this deadline was not met.

On 21 September 2021, the Commission published an inception impact assessment on the revision of the detergents Regulation. The deadline for comments was 19 October 2021.

The revision was expected to address the weaknesses stressed in the evaluation of the regulation, published in 2019. The revision would inter alia adapt the provisions of the regulation to clarify its scope. Furthermore, the action plan accompanying the EU chemicals strategy for sustainability - Towards a Toxic-Free Environment - released on 14 October 2020, includes the revision of the regulation on detergents, in order to take into account the combination effects of chemicals and to extend the generic approach to risk management to the regulation, to better protect consumers' health.

A consultation aimed at gathering opinions from consumers and professional users of detergents, civil society organisations, industry, SMEs, national authorities and any other interested stakeholders was open between 2 March and 25 May 2022.

A specific meeting for stakeholders on the revision of the detergents Regulation, organised by the Commission, took place on 12 May 2022.

EPRS published an implementation appraisal of the current Regulation in March 2023.

On 28 April 2023, the Commission put forward a proposal aiming at amending the rules on detergents. It addresses two main issues: the current detergents Regulation does not take into account new market developments (such as microbial cleaning products), and there is a lack of efficient information requirements for detergents (the same substance may appear several times on the same label due to overlaps with other EU laws, such as the Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation).

The proposed regulation intends to:

  • Simplify market rules by abolishing several requirements that have become unnecessary or redundant (such as the obligation to provide an ingredient data sheet for hazardous detergents). Labels would also be simplified. 
  • Introduce voluntary digital labelling: the proposal differentiates between pre-packaged products and products sold in a refill format. For pre-packaged products, economic operators may choose to move certain mandatory labelling information to a digital label, in combination with a physical one. And for products sold in a refill format, there is a possibility to provide all labelling information, except for dosage instructions for consumer laundry detergents, only digitally. The introduction of digital labelling would reduce burden and costs for the industry and would provide further ease of use and awareness for consumers and professional users.
  • Facilitate the sales of innovative safe products, such as new innovative cleaning products based on micro-organisms. 
  • Increase sustainability and safety through clear rules for refilled detergents

The European Economic and Social Committee adopted its opinion in July 2023. It welcomes the updating and simplification of the Detergents Regulation, particularly the removal of redundant or obsolete elements and the maintaining of those that work well. The committee considers however that the opportunities for streamlining are offset or exceeded by an increased administrative burden arising from other aspects of the revision proposal.

In the Parliament, the file was allocated to the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). Manuela Ripa (Greens/EFA, Germany) was appointed ENVI rapporteur on 14 June 2023. The Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) is associated under Rule 57 of Parliament's rules of procedure, with exclusive and shared competence.

IMCO adopted its opinion on 24 January 2024 by 40 votes in favour, and one against.

In total, 384 amendments were tabled in ENVI. The vote on the amendments took place on 14 February 2024. The report was adopted with 68 votes in favour, 1 against and 7 abstentions. The report enlarges the list of restricted microorganisms and cuts labelling requirements. For detergents sold in a refill format, all labelling information should also be available in a label that is attached to the packaging at the moment of refill. The ENVI report also adds new limitations on the content of phosphates and other phosphorus compounds for some detergent categories (e.g. after a transition period, consumer hand-dishwashing detergents could not contain phosphate and other phosphorus compounds). The Commission would be required to assess the feasibility of the introduction of mandatory targets for renewable raw materials and recycled content in detergents. After a transition period, organic ingredients of detergents other than surfactants should be biodegradable. The ENVI report adds a new article on animal testing: the safety of detergents and their conformity with the proposed regulation should be established using non-animal methods validated and adopted at EU level.

The plenary adopted the unamended report on 27 February 2024, as its first reading position, with 544 votes in favour, 6 against and 78 absentions. 

In the Council, the proposal has been discussed within the Working Party on Technical Harmonisation (Dangerous Substances - Chemicals).

References:

Further reading:

Author: Guillaume Ragonnaud, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/05/2024.