Access “Frequently asked questions” about REACH at www.echa.europa.eu/reach/faq_en.asp.

Flexible packaging converters and printers will need to comply before selling their products in Europe.

The REACH program pre-registration phase will expire Dec. 1, 2008, only three short months from now. Take care not to miss this looming deadline if your company exports packaging materials into the European Union. And remember that hundreds of thousands of pre-registrations are expected by agency staffers, according to published reports.

Failure to register for REACH will result in prohibition of the substance.

Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) legislation is complex, wide-ranging and impacts numerous packaging companies. Roughly 30,000 substances will be subject to REACH legislation, including adhesives, solvents and surfectants used in flexible packaging manufacturing. The purpose of REACH is to reduce health risks associated with chemicals by requiring companies to register safety information with the European Chemicals Agency. If necessary, chemicals deemed dangerous will have to be replaced with safer alternatives.

As a result, companies making or importing into the EU more than one ton of certain chemical substances per year are encouraged to pre-register those chemicals by Dec. 1 of this year. Clearly, now is the time to understand REACH’s relevance to your business and the legal issues related to this legislation.

Legal issues related to REACH include the incremental cost of compliance to sell products to EU-based buyers, as well as the ramifications of disclosing proprietary information resulting from the registration process.

The scope of REACH includes substances manufactured, imported, used as intermediates or marketed as-is, in various preparations. Following the pre-registration phase, companies will have until Dec. 1, 2010, for the final registration and market authorization of all substances produced or imported in quantities greater than 1,000 tons per year.

Here are six actions flexible packaging converters can immediately take to ensure smooth compliance with REACH legislation:

1. Pre-register now: Pre-registration is critical, as it gives companies several years to complete the formal registration process. Firms that do

not pre-register will have to take immediate steps to have their chemicals become part of the REACH registration process to comply.

2. Understand compliance implications: Plan for the implications of REACH, in terms of financial issues and in terms of potential sharing and public disclosure of proprietary information-marketplace shifts may result, in favor of firms that can afford the expense of testing needed to support product registration.

3. Build internal consensus: Gain the commitment of senior management and specialists needed to drive your REACH compliance program.

4. Be aware of competitive issues: Packaging firms may be able to benefit from restrictions on competitors’ products. Note that, while companies may request confidentiality of sensitive information, the goal in creating REACH legislation is to disseminate information, some of which will be posted on the internet.

5. Analyze your supply chain: Map the structure of your firm’s supply chain, identify chemical suppliers and the uses of various substances. Anticipate the need for substance withdrawal and customer communication.

6. Communicate a sense of urgency: Start managing the situation today, with internal stakeholders, if you haven’t already done so.

Rick Van Arnam, partner with New York-based Barnes, Richardson & Colburn, is a specialist in global trade law. Reach him at 212-725-0200 or rvanarnam@barnesrichardson.com.