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Review of the detergents regulation shows improved consumer and environment protection

Today, the European Commission published the first review of the detergents regulation since its entry into force in 2004 (Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on detergents).

The evaluation/review confirmed that the detergents regulation has made it easier for companies to trade cross border and has levelled the playing field for detergents’ manufacturers. Data from Eurostat, supported by more concrete and recent data from the detergents industry show a steady growth of both the detergents market and the detergents industry since the entry into force of the regulation.

The regulation also had a positive impact on the environment through improved biodegradability rules that ensure that consumer detergents are totally broken down to water, carbon dioxide and biomass. These rules are often regarded internationally as the 'golden standard', potentially conferring a competitive advantage to detergents manufactured in the EU.

Phosphorus limits for consumer laundry and consumer automatic dishwasher detergents were also introduced in 2012, to lower the amount of phosphorus used in detergents and so reduce the damage that phosphates from detergents may have on ecosystems and aquatic environments (eutrophication). It is estimated that about 30% of laundry detergent formulations and 95% of consumer automatic dishwasher detergents had to be reformulated as a result of these limits. This is equivalent to a reduction of about 55,000 tonnes of phosphorus per year across the EU.

The regulation has also increased protection of human health by giving the consumers online access to the full list of ingredients contained in detergents. By providing information on the content of allergenic fragrances on detergents’ labels, consumers with allergies or allergic predispositions are allowed to make informed choices and potential reactions related to the use of detergents are therefore reduced.

The evaluation also identified areas for improvement, the main one being the need to provide clearer information to consumers. Some of the rules of the detergents regulation are inconsistent and/or overlapping with other EU chemicals legislation and often lead to duplications in the labelling of detergents. These duplications contribute to the overload of detergents labels, which in turn results in unclear information to consumers. They also create an unnecessary burden for the detergents industry. These issues could be addressed with the use of innovative communication methods and digital tools such as Q-R codes.

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