Three main barriers have been identified during the discussion:
- Lack of demand from users (e.g. retailers) due to the higher price of thermal papers using alternatives. Despite the relatively small increase in price per unit of thermal paper, due to the high quantities purchased by big users the total additional cost is high. Most users are not ready to accept this additional cost, unless there is a legal requirement not to use a certain substance or unless there is a strong push by actors like trade unions, NGOs or media (affecting public image).
- Lack of regulatory certainty regarding the alternatives: several of them are under regulatory scrutiny, what will happen to them? (e.g. SVHC listing? restriction of use?). This is linked with the lack of knowledge on the hazard profile (human health and environment) for the alternatives. What is a safer, more sustainable alternative? Lack of clear direction on where to go.
- Lack of knowledge and understanding of the issue by the users of thermal paper (especially SMEs): not aware of the regulation, not understanding the reasons of concern and the need for change.
The above-mentioned barriers lead to a general inertia of the market in adopting safer alternatives. Other barriers were also mentioned :
- Lack of communication and understanding within the supply chain: what is the concern? what are the solutions? who can provide them? Unclear who does what.
- Switching to alternatives might lead to accepting compromises on the technical performance/quality of the new thermal paper.
- Two main types of alternatives: chemical and technological (e.g. electronic receipts). These are two very different approaches for which users and suppliers have still to come together and explore possibilities for solutions.
- Some users of alternatives holding a patent not allowing others to adopt the alternatives.
- The REACH registration costs for high tonnage substances are a barrier for supply of alternative substances.
- Lack of “green mindset” of the thermal paper users, not willing to switch to safer alternatives due to the higher costs.
- Possible additional barrier: lack of enforcement of regulations in place
- Users not willing to switch to the alternatives if the rest of the market does not switch as well.