본문으로 바로가기 주메뉴 바로가기

Research Reports

A study on the management of hazardous substances in plastics
  • Author Suh, Yang-won, Park, Jeonggue
  • Researchers
  • Date 2020-10-31
I. Research Background and Purposes
o Research Background and Necessity
ㅇ With the continued increase in the use of plastics worldwide, social interest in recycling plastics and risks of microplastics is increasing.
- The recent spread of COVID-19 has raised the need to manage chemicals contained in plastics as demand for disposable plastics has soared due to strengthened personal hygiene and social distance.
ㅇ Substances intentionally added to facilitate plastic processing and improve product performance are referred to as plastic additives.
- The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) carries out the Plastic Additives Initiative project to manage plastic additives and analyzes the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) registration materials and industry status to derive a list of additives by additive type.
ㅇ ECHA has also established basic information on the physical chemistry and hazard of the additives and checked the status of management, estimated the release potential, and prioritized plastic additives based on this.
- In addition, a process of selecting priorities for the management of plastic additives and a system for managing plastic additives in were proposed in conjunction with the EU REACH.

ㅇ Reporting and registration of chemicals have been made in Korea since the enforcement of the Act on the Registration and Evaluation, etc. of Chemical Substances (ARECs). However, separate management of plastic additives is insufficient.
- Through this study, we want to draw up a list of plastic additives used in Korea, establish basic information on hazard, etc., and suggest a direction to manage the additives in Korea for the future.

o Purposes of Research
ㅇ To secure basic information for selecting priorities for managing plastic additives early by organizing the list of plastic additives and checking related information including hazard information.
ㅇ To prioritize plastic additives for management, we presented a methodology for estimating the release potential of plastic additives and applied it on a trial basis through modeling analysis to lay the scientific foundation for policy analysis and alternative design and suggest rational policy alternatives
ㅇ Acts on the management of chemical substances such as ARECs were reviewed. A plan to manage plastic additives in connection with the current chemical management system was proposed to enhance the effectiveness of the policy and contribute to the establishment of a basis for systematic implementation.

II. Establishment of an Inventory of Plastic Additives
o Making a list of domestic plastic additives
ㅇ A total of 951 substances were analyzed and compared with the list of plastic additive initiatives by ECHA, registered data of ARECs, results of statistical investigation on chemicals, and other information on additives at home and abroad.
Based on this, a list of 412 additives used in Korea was drawn up.

o Securing domestic plastic additive information and establishing an inventory
ㅇ Out of a total of 412 domestic additives, 114 (27.7%) were found to be regulated and managed in Korea. Among them, 75 were hazardous chemical substances, 41 were substances subject to intensive control, and 106 were phase-in substances subject to registration.
- In addition, 74 substances (17.5%) were found to contain components described in GHS hazard information. In terms of information on types and concentration levels of polymers used in additives, 218 (25.9%) substances were identified. With regard to information on concentration levels of additives within polymers, 210 (51.0%) substances were identified.
ㅇ Furthermore, an inventory of 279 companies which handle plastic additives and functional agents and 235 coloring companies was established.
- In the case of companies subject to chemical statistical investigation, the status of chemicals handled by each company and information of companies by type of additives were secured.
III. Developing a Technique to Estimate Release Potential of Plastic Additives
o Methodology for estimating release potential
ㅇ ECHA's Plastic Additives Initiative utilizes release potential estimation techniques as a methodology for prioritizing plastic additives.
- The higher the release potential, the more likely the human and environmental receptors are to be exposed to plastic additives, which makes the release potential a factor to be considered when selecting management targets at the screening level.
- The release potential of plastic additives is estimated either quantitatively or qualitatively depending on whether data is available and the estimation methodology can be applied.

o Pilot estimation of release potential
ㅇ For additives to which related techniques can be applied, such as neutral organic matter, the ranking with regard to release potential was derived through quantitative estimation.
- Release potentials of 92 substances for skin and 23 substances for inhalation were quantitatively estimated.
ㅇ Qualitative estimation was carried out when the high and low release potentials are distinguished by the inherent physical chemistry and functions of additives such as antistatic agents and pigments.
- 11 antistatic agents were classified as high-potential materials, and the pigments were tentatively classified as low-potential substances.

IV. Designing a Plastic Additives Management System
o Planning a design for a management system
ㅇ Basic components and design directions were proposed to establish a system that effectively manages domestic plastic additives.
- The basic framework of the management system was developed by linking ECHA's plastic additives management plan, procedures for deriving a domestic additive list, the database construction and screening process based on release potential, and chemical related systems.

o Proposal for a pilot management plan through application of the management system
ㅇ Domestic and international management levels of substances contained in the domestic plastic additive list (proposal) were compared.
- For 30 substances of priority with high quantitative release potential and 11 substances with high qualitative release potential, we analyzed whether they fall under the categories of authorized substances, substances of very high concern (SVHC), or restricted substances set by EU and whether material assessment was conducted. We also examined their regulatory measures and GHS information status.
- In addition, in terms of the domestic management status, the management or regulation status was identified by reviewing the list of hazardous chemical substances and substances subject to intensive control. We also analyzed whether they are phase-in chemicals subject to the first registration and reviewed their GHS information.
ㅇ According to the analysis result of the management status, there were substances which are not regulated and whose basic hazard information including GHS is not available in Korea, even though their release potentials are relatively high and they are subject to management and regulation in the EU.
- These substances need to be reviewed for early acquisition of their information, and additional management measures can be considered based on this.
- However, it should be considered that the management plan proposed in this study is the result of the trial application that was carried out to identify drawbacks and come up with improvement measures.

V. Policy Suggestion and Direction for the Promotion
o Construction of the domestic plastic additive database
ㅇ In order to determine the distribution of plastic additives in Korea and derive a domestic list of additives, a system is needed to secure relevant data.
- To secure a list of candidates for plastic additives through government data, it is necessary to analyze data registered under the ARECs and the database of the results of statistical investigations conducted under the Chemicals Control Act.
- It is speculated that a separate code for plastic additives can be added to the chemical use classification system under the ARECs and the Chemicals Control Act. Or, existing codes for the classification system can be subdivided for the identification of plastic additives.
- Private data including industry overviews and the database of the plastic additives used abroad can also be used for listing plastic additives. It will also be possible to more accurately check the use of additives by analyzing the current status of the industry with cooperation from companies that handle substances that are candidates for plastic additives.
- For this purpose, a plan should be prepared to analyze the list of companies in question using the data registered under the ARECs and the results of statistical investigations conducted under the Chemicals Control Act. Based on this analysis, the target companies can be selected and information on plastic additives can be obtained through surveys.
ㅇ It is necessary to come up with a plan to establish an information database for each domestic plastic additive, including the physico-chemical properties, hazard information, handling status, and regulatory status.
- It is necessary to secure basic substance information through reported and registered data under ARECs, the results of statistical investigations on chemicals conducted under the Chemicals Control Act, and analysis of domestic and foreign chemical databases.
- Information production measures need to be developed for substances that do not have relevant information in Korea, such as hazard information including GHS.

o Designing the domestic plastic additive management system
ㅇ To improve, it is necessary to consider the following in the process of selecting management priorities:
- In case uncertainty exists, caused by the application of estimates such as QSAR due to insufficient data or the lack of experiment data in release potential estimation of domestic plastic additives, it is necessary to consider other information production methods to secure relevant figures or to consider expanding the scope of qualitative estimation and supplementing related techniques.
- It is also necessary to supplement the estimation method by considering the characteristics of plastic types, additives, media, and interaction between media when estimating the quantitative release potential.
- However, it should be considered that the estimation of release potential is not the result of risk assessment, and is used for an initial screening process to prioritize the substances for their management.
ㅇ It is suggested that the domestic plastic additive management system consist of phases of identifying the status of additives, drawing up a list, establishing an information database for each additive, screening for prioritization, and determining follow-up measures for management and regulation.
- Priority will be selected in three stages: the first stage is screening based on release potential; the second screening is reviewing hazard data such as GHS, risk information, and the possibility of additional exposures due to other uses; the third screening is analyzing domestic and international regulations to prioritize plastic additives for the management.
- In order to operate such a management system, institutional grounds should be established through revision of related laws and notices, such as the ARECs and the Chemicals Control Act.
- Based on this, an organic management system should be developed which designates additives feared to have risks as permitted/restricted/ prohibited substances or substances subject to intensive control, linked with the existing regulatory measures in the ARECs.
- Considering the quantitative and qualitative expansion of plastic additives, the government may have to consider extending the management system to cover not only phase-in chemicals but also non-phase-in chemicals.