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News | 29 July 2022

How to ensure safe and sustainable chemicals and materials for a greener EU

The JRC developed a framework on how to define safe and sustainable by design (SSbD) criteria for chemicals and materials. It puts together safety, environmental sustainability and socio-economic dimensions for the first time. It should contribute to achieve the Green Deal ambitions.

The new framework can be a booster for innovation and the circular economy in the EU. It facilitates the design and development of safe and sustainable chemicals and materials from the early phases of innovation and along the entire life cycle.

The safe and sustainable by design (SSbD) approach will help the society to move towards zero-pollution for air, water, soil and biota.

The SSbD framework proposes a hierarchical approach in which the safety aspects are considered first, followed by environmental, social and economic aspects.

The application of the SSbD framework aims at:

  • Promoting the application of the safe and sustainable by design approach to chemicals and materials and steering innovation towards the green industrial transition, resulting in the EU to become a global reference for safety and sustainability targets;
  • Providing guidance on criteria development for the design of ‘safe’ and ‘sustainable’ chemicals/materials;
  • Driving innovation towards the substitution or minimisation of the production and use of substances of concern, in line with and beyond upcoming regulatory obligations;
  • Minimising or, as far as possible, eliminating the possible negative impact on human health, climate and the environment (air, water, soil) along the entire chemical’s and material’s life cycle;
  • Enabling comparative assessment of chemicals and materials based on safety and sustainability performance for a given function or application context.

The SSbD framework will be tested, via the execution of case studies that will support the refinement of the framework and criteria.

Policy context

Developing SSbD criteria is one of the key actions foreseen in the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS), a key component of the Green Deal. The CCS aims at reducing possible negative impacts on human health and the environment associated with chemicals, materials, products and services produced, used or marketed in the EU.

This work is the basis of the upcoming Commission Recommendation on a European framework for SSbD chemicals and materials.