Detergents Regulation

What is the Detergents Regulation?

Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 on detergents went into effect in October 2005. The regulation establishes common rules to enable detergents and surfactants to be sold and used across the EU, while providing a high degree of protection to the environment and human health. It also defines Detergents as products containing soaps or other surfactants intended for washing and cleaning. In short, the regulation consolidated the existing community legislation on biodegradability and labelling of detergents by bringing together the five Directives under a signle regulation.

In particular, this Regulation harmonises the following rules for placing detergents and surfactants for detergents on the EU market:

  • the biodegradability of surfactants in detergents
  • restrictions or bans on surfactants on grounds of biodegradability
  • the additional labelling of detergents, including fragrance allergens
  • the information that manufacturers must hold at the disposal of national authorities and medical personnel
  • limitations on the content of phosphates and other phosphorus compounds in consumer laundry detergents and consumer automatic dishwasher detergents.

How does the Detergents Regulation impact the surfactant industry?

Detergents Regulation 648/2004:

  • stipulates that surfactants used in detergents must be fully biodegradable.
  • introduces a stricter series of tests for determining both the primary and the ultimate biodegradability of surfactants for the four surfactant families: anionic, non-ionic, cationic and amphoteric.
  • places the emphasis on the ultimate biodegradability of surfactants to address concerns related to the potential toxicity of persistent metabolites.

Those detergents containing surfactants that do not fulfil the requirements will not be permitted on the EU market. A derogation procedure is, however, included in the Regulation to allow for exceptional circumstances. 

Thus, the regulation 648/2004 provides rules for (i) placing detergents on the market, (ii) granting derogation, (iii) information to be provided by manufacturers, (iv) labelling on the packaging of detergents for consumers, and (v) provides test methods to be used to assess the biodegradability of surfactants used in detergents. 

What is CESIO’s role in Detergents Regulation?

As the main stakeholder representing the interests of the EU surfactants industry, CESIO along with AISE/ECOSOL/FECC developed agreed guidelines on the transmission of information for surfactant biodegradability as indicated in Article 9 of Regulation (EC) No 648/2004.

CESIO also developed guidelines on standardised declarations on biodegradability for the use of safety data sheets (SDS) to enable surfactant manufacturers to fulfil their responsibilities under Article 9 of Regulation (EC) No 648/2004.

These guidelines were endorsed by the Commission and can be found under the following section: