The reported volume of chemicals exported from and imported to the European Union (EU) under the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Regulation, significantly increased in 2021 due in large part to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal.
ECHA’s latest annual report on the trade of certain hazardous chemicals that are banned or severely restricted in the EU shows a 19 % increase in exports from the EU in 2021 compared to 2020. Overall, 791 576 tonnes of PIC chemicals were exported during the year.
Exports of PIC chemicals
Exports of benzene – which is used, for example, to make plastics, resins, synthetic fibres, dyes and rubber lubricants – increased by 143 % to around 187 000 tonnes in 2021.
Non-EU countries mainly imported benzene for use in the petrochemical industry and for analytical research and development. While ethylene dichloride (1,2-dichloroethane) – an industrial chemical mainly used to produce PVC and as a solvent – remains the most exported PIC chemical for the third year in a row.
As in previous years, Germany has exported the highest quantities of PIC chemicals, although volumes dropped by 13 % compared to 2020. A considerable increase has been reported by the Netherlands, mostly due to the quantities of benzene exported to the United Kingdom (UK), which was not reported in the past as it was part of internal market trade.
Imports of PIC chemicals
As a non-EU country, the UK also contributed considerably to the increase of imports to the EU. The total amount of PIC chemicals imported into the EU in 2021 was 883 120 tonnes, which is 120 % more than in 2020. About 284 000 tonnes were from the UK.
Following the same trend as exports, imports of benzene to the EU have also increased. The 500 000 tonnes imported represented around 57 % of the total quantity of PIC chemicals imported to the EU in 2021. Ethylene dichloride (1,2-dichloroethane) was again the second most imported PIC chemical. From the 343 000 tonnes imported into the EU during the year, almost 73 % came from the UK.
Article 10 of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Regulation requires importers and exporters to give information about the annual trade of chemicals listed in Annex I of the regulation, to their designated national authorities by 31 March of the following year.
Each EU country then has to provide the aggregated information to ECHA so that it can be summarised at EU level and non-confidential information can be made publicly available.
24 countries provided data to ECHA on the export of PIC chemicals from the EU in 2021, from 532 exporters. Three EU countries and Northern Ireland declared that they had not exported PIC chemicals.
22 EU countries provided data on imports of PIC chemicals into the EU in 2021 from 195 importers. Five EU countries and Northern Ireland declared that they had not imported PIC chemicals.
There was an increase of 6 % in the number of exporters and 42 % in importers since exports and imports to and from the UK were within the scope of the annual reporting for the first time.