As I see it

Are your colored products legal in Europe?

EU legislation on color could make you see red.

Adding color to plastics has always been a science rather than an art but with increasingly invasive EU legislation controlling the use of pigments and additives the process is in danger of becoming too complex. Choosing the correct colors that meet legal and application requirements while satisfying cost parameters, are critical issues for processors. The problem is that the EU rules do not always appear to follow any logical path. The science is inexact and the interpretation of it is almost an art.

For example, it is obligatory to use certain pigments in some applications while lower cost alternatives are acceptable in other areas. Processors who choose the wrong colorants may find that their end product is not fit for purpose. Worse still, they could be illegal. The directives present a major headache for end users, processors, compounders and masterbatch manufacturers.

There is nothing wrong with the original purpose of the directives which was to protect consumers as well as the environment. The problems occur in their interpretation and application. It’s a minefield where Confucius reigns supreme.

Consider the use of a lead chromate yellow to color a PP beach bat. In this application the pigment would be illegal if the product was classified as a toy. Call it sports equipment and the pigment would be acceptable. Similarly, a polyamide moulding colored with food approved cadmium red would be perfectly acceptable in a food processing product as long as it did not conflict with another directive covering the use of colors in electrical appliances.

Energy efficiency and environmental concerns continue to be headline news around the world. In Europe, where landfill sites are at a premium, there is a sharp focus on recycling and so it is not surprising that the directives take account of ‘end of life’ issues. This being the case manufacturers must ensure they use colorants that can be recycled. Chrome yellow pigment could not, for example, be used in electrical, automotive or packaging applications because it would offend certain recycling conventions.

As mentioned earlier product classification is critical and yet there are serious anomalies in the directives. Is a video cassette box packaging or is it a product? Is a yellow ‘grow bag’ – a PE bag containing peat where seeds are implanted through the outer skin - part of the product or is it just packaging of garden peat?

So what can be done? Colour Tone advises its customers to protect themselves by taking a number of precautions. Implementing a system that will track current and future legislation is essential. Companies can use various means to monitor developments in their specific areas by following press articles and linking with industry trade associations. Also it is essential that everyone in the supply chain agrees to a process that facilitates the accurate classification of the end use of the items they intend to manufacture.

Masterbatch companies especially have to know their way around the legislation. In order to create cost competitive formulations that comply they have to rely on accurate descriptions of the intended end use of products. Part of ISO 9001:2000 accreditation ensures everyone makes products that are legal and fit for purpose. EU legislation which is ambiguous simply makes this more difficult to achieve.

Any manufacturer intending to sell goods in Europe cannot afford to ignore this legislation. It is worth noting that the rules apply now, so don’t be tempted to use old stocks of masterbatches without first talking to an expert on the subject.


Contact :
Tony Gaukroger
ColourTone Masterbatch Limited
Pant Glas Farm Industrial Estate
Newport Road
Telephone: 01222 888910
Fax: 01222 868487

Press enquiries:
Ian McMath
Telephone: 01428 723211
Fax: 01428 722371


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