By | May 13, 2024

The EU published a proposed regulation that would replace the current Detergents Regulation (Reg. 648/2004) in April 2023. Their intention is to align the detergents regulation more closely with other EU policies, particularly the ambitious Green Deal Strategy, which seeks to have the EU carbon neutral by 2050. The proposed regulation addresses market and technical progress such as the development of microbial detergents and digital accessibility of information.  

In February 2024, the proposed regulation advanced another step in the EU legislative process: a first reading and vote by the EU Parliament. As a result, an amended version of the proposed regulation was published. This version considers some of the comments submitted by different industry groups, which cited impractical and burdensome requirements that were included in the first proposed regulation.  

Existing EU Detergents Regulation (648/2004)

The existing Detergents Regulation covers the manufacturing, selling and use of detergents while ensuring the protection of human health and the environment. It establishes requirements with regards to the biodegradability of detergents and surfactants, additional labeling of detergents that include allergens and specifies what information manufacturers must have available for the competent authority and medical personnel. 

After the different legislative evaluations conducted by the EU government since 2019, it was determined that there were:  

  • Weaknesses in the existing Detergents Regulation. 
  • Opportunities to reduce legislative overlap with other EU regulations by streamlining labeling requirements and the emergency health response for detergents, such as Poison Centre Notification (PCN). 
  • Technological advances as well as market developments (microbial cleaning products) since the original regulation of 2004 that should be considered. 

Proposed regulatory text of April 2023

This proposed regulation contained the following new requirements for detergents in the EU: 

  • The definition of “detergent” was clarified to include new products such as microbial cleaners.  
  • Specific requirements for detergents containing intentionally added microorganisms were detailed in Annex II, which include risk management measures such as:  
    • Minimum shelf life.  
    • Prohibited strains of microorganisms.  
    • Interdiction on the use of genetically modified microorganisms.  
    • Mandatory test requirements.  
    • Prohibiting from the market detergents containing microorganisms in refill format.  

Simplifying and streamlining labeling requirements

The general labeling requirements for the chemical composition of a detergent set out in Annex V of the proposed regulation are not significantly different from those in the Annex VII of the existing regulation (648/2004), except for additional requirements for detergents containing intentionally added microorganisms. 

However, in the proposal the EU sought to simplify and streamline labeling requirements by reducing legislative overlap with other labeling regulations. To improve the readability of the label, the proposed regulation indicates “when similar information stemming from different pieces of Union legislation is required on detergents and surfactants’ labels, this information is provided only once in accordance with the stricter rules.”    

CE marking

In the extended Single Market in the European Economic Area (EEA), the letters “CE (Conformité Européenne)” on a product signify that the manufacturer declares that the product is in conformity with applicable requirements set out in EU harmonization legislation.  

It has been proposed that the CE marking be extended to detergents under the new regulation, but industry groups have cited this as an additional administrative burden. 

They also mentioned that since the CE marking is not indicated in the CLP and REACH Regulations, the Detergents Regulation should not be different. 

Digital Product Passport

The proposed regulation introduces requirements for a Digital Product Passport according to the EU’s not yet finalized Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation. The proposal indicated that each batch of detergent or surfactant produced would require a special product passport to confirm compliance with requirements.  

Product passports should correspond to a specific batch of detergent or surfactant. However, industry groups commented that the implementation of Digital Product Passports could be simplified by linking them to detergent models rather than to batches of production. 

Digital Product Passports should include: 

  1. The unique product identifier of the detergent or surfactant.
  2. The name and address of the manufacturer or the manufacturer’s authorized representative, as well as the manufacturer’s unique operator identifier.
  3. The identification of detergent or surfactant allowing traceability, including a color image of sufficient clarity to enable the identification of the detergent or surfactant.
  4. The commodity code under which the detergent or surfactant is classified at the moment the product passport is created.
  5. References to Union legal acts that the detergent or surfactant complies with.
  6. A full list of substances intentionally added to the detergent or surfactant and of preservatives labeled in accordance with Annex V.

Point number 6 will not apply to professional detergents, or to surfactants for professional detergents for which a safety data sheet according to EU REACH is available. 

Ingredient data sheet

Ingredient data sheets are required for all detergents in the existing regulation EU Reg (648/2004). 

The proposed regulation removes this requirement for detergents classified as hazardous by the CLP. An ingredient data sheet would only be required for non-hazardous detergents.  

For detergents that are not classified as hazardous, manufacturers or agents must provide the ingredient data sheet to Member States’ appointed bodies referred to in Article 45 of CLP (Poison Control Notification Centres).  

Digital labeling

The amount of information that can be communicated digitally would be increased. There are specific technical requirements for the digital label’s accessibility and the retention time of its digital record. 

Post-Brexit U.K. and the proposed regulation

The proposed regulation was reviewed in detail by the U.K. government, and their memorandum indicates: 

  • They are not planning to do an in-depth review of the existing Detergents Regulation that continues to apply in the U.K.  
  • The existing regulation provides for high standards of environmental protection. 
  • Any review in due course will consider changes by the proposed regulation. 

It should be noted that once the proposed regulation is finalized, it would be applicable in Northern Ireland because of treaties between the U.K. and the EU. 

First Reading EU Parliament, February 2024

The European Parliament adopted a legislative resolution on the proposal. Elements of the text were modified according to industry comments, which included: 

  • Removal of the requirements for CE Marking for detergents. 
  • Digital Product Passports (DPP) for detergent models rather than batches of production. 

Timeline

There are still other steps of the EU parliamentary process to be completed before the proposal comes into force. A 30-month transition period is planned for the applicability of the regulation once this happens. 

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