Sustainability policy summaries and consultation responses
The topic of a sustainable future is wide-reaching and long term in nature. Our current focus is on influencing policy on chemicals, resources and waste management, and environmental protection, which are priority areas for the chemical sciences globally. Our aim is to make sure chemicals, resources and waste, and environment policies are informed by the best comprehensive science, showcasing the contribution of the chemical sciences to more sustainable development, achieving a circular economy and creating a healthy environment for healthy people.
On this page:
- Chemicals management
- Resources and waste policy
- Protecting environmental and human health
- Critical minerals in the circular economy - panel discussion recording
Chemicals management - UK and global policy
UK chemicals policy
The RSC continues to advocate for a UK-wide chemicals framework that achieves a balance between nurturing innovation, protecting the environment and human health, and is harmonised with global regulations to enable the UK to trade internationally
We call for an authoritative, consolidated and fully resourced UK Chemicals Agency that can act with clarity and build strong relationships with other chemicals agencies around the world.
See our latest work
Environment Bill amendments briefing on UK REACH
November 2020 - the Government's Environment Bill sets out new provisions about targets, plans and policies relating to regulation of chemicals. Building on our extensive work with the scientific community. We provided a briefing to members of parliament with suggested amendments relating to chemicals regulation. Future decision-making for chemicals must be transparent and be informed by the best science.
Policy position - Risk-based regulation for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)
September 2020 - this policy position is intended to inform the continuing debates on regulation for EDCs. It represents a perspective following an expert round table involving the UK scientific community. As the UK has left the EU, it is necessary for the UK to decide how it will regulate EDCs in the context of promoting globally harmonised regulation, informed by collaborative science and research evidence. We advocate for risk-based regulation for EDCs.
Our policy position - A chemicals strategy for a sustainable chemicals revolution
2020 - we engaged with scientists in our community to develop our vision for what a good chemicals strategy looks like, as relevant to any nation in principle. We identified four pillars on which any chemicals strategy has to be based: education, innovation, circular economy and regulation. National governments must invest in these areas and create a responsible framework of action for chemicals management.
Our consultation response - Toxic chemicals in everyday life
March 2019 - we responded to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry on Toxic Chemicals in Everyday Life. In managing the risks from chemicals we highlight the need for transparent decision-making principles, independent scientific advice mechanisms, globally harmonised outcomes and development of biomonitoring.
Our thought starter - Principles for the management of chemicals in the environment
September 2018 - we developed a thought starter document covering the ‘principles for the management of chemicals in the environment’ that our community considers are important to the development of new environment policy. This document was produced in collaboration with members of our Environment and Regulation Collective. Any new chemicals framework must be established on a core set of values and principles.
Our latest work on global chemicals policy
As the UK develops its presence on the global stage, the RSC is leading the voice of science in discussions at the UN level. The UN are in the process of developing the ‘Beyond 2020 Vision’ for the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (UN SAICM). During the past decade, it has been realised by the UN that the involvement of the scientific community in UN SAICM has been too limited, as is reflected in the Global Chemicals Outlook II report.
We call for an intergovernmental panel for chemicals to be established to address this gap.
See our latest work
Our policy position - A new intergovernmental panel for chemicals and waste
October 2020 - we published a position calling for a new panel on chemicals, on par with the IPCC for climate change and IPBES for biodiversity loss. Such establishment of a new panel for chemicals would fill a gap in science advice in this globally important area.
Resources and waste policy
The chemical sciences play an important role in understanding the environment around us, including preventing and remediating the adverse impacts of waste from human activity.
Drawing on evidence from chemical scientists working on these issues, we call for the implementation of waste and resource strategies across all devolved nations of the United Kingdom to follow the waste hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle).
Future waste policySee our latest work
Our Environment Bill amendments briefing - future wastes
November 2020 - the Government's Environment Bill sets out new provisions about targets, plans and policies relating to waste and resource efficiency. Building on our extensive work with the scientific community, we provided a briefing to members of parliament with suggested amendments relating to future waste.
Principles for implementing future waste strategies
September 2019 - we developed a set of policy recommendations summarised in our "principles for implementing future waste strategies" that our community considers are important to the development of waste and resources policy to protect the environment and unlock the opportunities of the circular economy. These principles were developed drawing on evidence from our Environment, Sustainability and Energy Division, our Materials Chemistry Division, and chemical scientists in our community working on these issues.
Plastic waste policy
Plastic is a versatile material that forms a key component of many products we use today. It is durable, cheap to produce, and has become ubiquitous with "single use" items, which is why when it comes to its end of life it has become a major environmental problem. The chemical sciences have a key role to play in finding solutions to this problem.
Drawing on evidence from chemical scientists working in this area, we call for the use of lifecycle based considerations to inform decisions on material and product choices.See our latest work
Our report on Science to enable sustainable plastic
June 2020 - the 8th Chemical Sciences and Society Summit (CS3) meeting is summarized in this report. The work covers research in the areas of plastics’ impact, new sustainable plastics, the recyclability of plastics, and the degradation of plastics. The meeting brought together more than 30 scientists from four participating countries.
Our policy position on plastic waste
September 2019 - this policy position is part of a policy pack that we developed drawing on evidence from our Materials Chemistry Division and chemical scientists in our community working on this issue. It covers "principles for the management of plastic waste" that our community considers important to the development of waste and resources policy to protect the environment and unlock the opportunities of the circular economy.
Our report on Sustainable plastics – the role of chemistry
March 2019 - in response to the growing awareness of the impact of plastic waste on the environment, the RSC Materials Chemistry Division hosted a roundtable discussion meeting. The meeting brought together stakeholders from across the chemical sciences research community to contribute their views on the future of sustainable plastics, and on the contribution that the chemical sciences will make.
E-waste and Critical Raw Materials (CRMs)
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is the fastest-growing waste stream on the planet. WEEE has a high content of Critical Raw Materials (CRMs), materials that are important to an economy and that are, or could become difficult to get hold of. The chemical sciences have a key role to play in finding solutions to avoid CRM shortages.
Drawing on evidence from chemical scientists working in this area, we call for CRMs to be tracked as a priority in the national waste tracking system combined with the National Materials Datahub, to identify the fates of CRMs in the UK.See our latest work
Written evidence on critical minerals
February 2023 - we responded to the Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry on critical minerals. Our response outlines the importance of these minerals for the low-carbon energy transition and the need for policies that enable a circular economy for critical minerals.
Our policy position on recovering the critical raw materials in batteries
September 2022 - this policy position was developed in conjunction with experts in our community. It covers our asks to enable the recovery of critical raw materials from batteries in the UK.
Our video briefing for MPs on Saving key elements to a green future
November 2020 - we participated in Sense About Science’s Evidence Week. Together with Dr Matthew Davies and Dr Rhys Charles from SPECIFIC IKC, Swansea University, and Dr Ena Bradley from Seren Technologies, we talked to MPs and parliamentary staff about the importance of saving precious elements to achieve a green transition.
Consultation response on Electronic waste and the circular economy
May 2020, following on from our policy work on critical raw materials and our successful Elements in Danger campaign, we were invited to provide written evidence as well as attend a session to give oral evidence on the Electronic Waste and the Circular Economy inquiry by the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee. Our recommendations were reflected in the committee’s final report.
Our policy position - Critical raw materials in waste electrical and electronic equipment
September 2019 - this policy position is part of a policy pack that we developed drawing on evidence from our Environment, Sustainability and Energy Division, and chemical scientists in our community working on this issue. It covers "principles for the management of critical raw materials in e-waste" that our community considers important to the development of waste and resources policy to protect the environment and unlock the opportunities of the circular economy.
Our consultation response to Net Zero Review
October 2022 - we responded to the UK government's call for evidence for the Review of Net Zero on questions addressed to businesses, the public and academics. Our response focuses in particular on critical raw materials, a circular economy of materials, skills needed for the net zero transition, air quality, and future innovation.
Protecting environmental and human health
Human health, the environment in which we live and our impact upon it are interlinked. This is reflected in many environmental and health policies, such as those related to air quality, water quality, food standards and standards for products. These policies seek to manage exposure to hazardous chemicals and reduce environmental pollution and the adverse effects on human health. The chemical sciences have an important role to play in contributing to policies that aim to protect environmental and human health for the benefit of society.
Environmental policySee our latest work
Our consultation response - Environmental targets
June 2022 we responded to the UK Government’s consultation on its proposed targets, a commitment under the Environment Act 2021. We submitted evidence in relation to its proposed targets for improving air quality and in waste and resources.
Our policy position - Sustainable water
March 2020 - this policy position, developed in collaboration with our community and representatives from across the water sector, outlines the actions that are needed to achieve clean and plentiful water for all.
Our consultation response - Clean air strategy
August 2018 - we submitted a response, developed in collaboration with our members, to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs consultation on the Draft Clean Air Strategy 2018.
Chemistry versus COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic poses a huge global challenge to human health and wellbeing. Chemical scientists are playing an important role in tackling this challenge.
Informed by our community’s expertise and experience, we have responded to a number of inquiries by the House of Commons and House of Lords Science & Technology Select Committees.See our policy work for Covid19
Response to the Joint Health and Social Care Committee and Science & Technology committee inquiry into lessons learnt so far in the COVID-19 response (November 2020)
Response to the House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee inquiry into the role of technology, research and innovation in the COVID-19 recovery (September 2020)
Response to the House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee inquiry into UK science, research and technology capability and influence in global disease outbreaks (July 2020)
Response to the House of Lords Science & Technology Select Committee inquiry into the science of COVID-19 (July 2020)
Critical minerals in the circular economy
Panel discussion - 21 October 2022
Watch our a panel discussion – jointly organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Critical Minerals Association. The discussion was chaired by Zama Dadan (ARCH Emerging Markets Partners) and panellists were:
- Jacqui Murray (British Volt) – Commercialising R&D
- Robert Lee (Met4Tech, Birmingham Law School) – Harmonising Legislation
- Cameron Dowling (ARCH Emerging Markets Partners) – Financing the Circular Economy
- Eva Marquis (Met4Tech, University of Exeter) – Geological Circular Economy
- Andy Rees (Welsh Government) – Collection, Waste Management & Recovery