Every day, we are exposed to functional chemicals from the furniture in our homes and other products we use regularly. These chemicals fulfil an important function in the material, but may be harmful to humans and the environment. RISE serves as host for the Swedish Centre for Chemical Substitution, which is tasked with guiding companies and the public sector in phasing out hazardous chemical substances in products and processes.
The Swedish Centre for Chemical Substitution acts as a node to which companies and the public sector can turn for guidance from the centre’s advisors and to receive assistance in accessing the right expertise for their chemical issues. Substitution involves replacing a hazardous chemical with a safer alternative.
– “We would like to view substitution in a wider perspective,” says Anna Jacobs, Director of the Swedish Centre for Chemical Substitution. “Basing the choice of alternatives on function means that not only chemicals are included, but may involve replacing materials, technology or manufacturing processes.”
Identify substitutes with an Alternatives Assessment
An Alternatives Assessment is a method that can be employed to identify suitable substitutes for a chemical. The method takes multiple factors in to account, such as health, environment, function and economy, throughout the product life-cycle. This enables a functional substitution to be achieved.
– “It’s a mind-set and method that we have started to work more earnestly with at the Centre, and from autumn 2020 we will also be offering courses in Alternatives Assessment,” says Jacobs.
Advice, training and self-help in the form of guides, tips and support materials online are core activities at the Centre.
We want to enhance knowledge in the industry
Focus on furniture and interior design
The Swedish Centre for Chemical Substitution works on a number of focus areas, and there is currently a particular focus on the furniture and interior design industries, since they lack product-specific legislation and it can be difficult for companies to know whether they are subject to chemicals legislation. And undesirable chemicals exist in abundance. Everything from flame retardants in couches and carpets to plasticisers and textile and leather surface finishes.
– “We want to enhance knowledge in the industry and motivate more companies to start phasing out undesirable substances. Having control over the chemical content in products and working systematically with substitution are also prerequisites to achieving a circular economy,” says Jacobs.
The Swedish Centre for Chemical Substitution is a government initiative that has received three years’ worth of funding from the state – to start with.
– “One of the important goals for the Centre is to get chemicals on the agenda and get more companies to focus on the issue. Hazardous chemicals can be a sensitive issue and work to replace them can often be drawn-out and expensive.” It’s therefore important that we exist and are able to lend support in the form of advice, knowledge and motivation by sharing good examples that it actually works.”
Read more about the Swedish Centre for Chemical Substitution at ri.se/en/substitutionscentrum