Under the CDR rule, manufacturers (which by the regulatory definition include importers) of chemicals must report certain information about those substances (e.g., regarding processing and use) to the EPA when they manufacture substances in threshold quantities. Reporting is required every 4 years, a long interval that spaces out compliance burdens while also creating the risk of misunderstanding as new staff take over the reporting obligation.
The EPA defines an “article” as an item manufactured to a specific shape with an end use that is dependent on that shape and that undergoes neither a chemical change during end use nor chemical changes that have no commercial purpose separate from the article. The import of a chemical substance that is part of an article that meets this regulatory definition is not subject to CDR reporting. There is no exemption for a domestically produced chemical substance incorporated into an article intended for commercial purposes. Also, items that exist solely in fluid (including liquid and gas) or particulate form are expressly excluded from the definition of article.
Additional information on these exemption conditions follows.
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At the point of import, an imported article must have a specific shape or design suitable for a particular end use application, and this shape or design must be maintained as an essential feature in the finished product. An imported article may undergo further processing subsequent to import as long as the essential feature of the finished product is maintained. Such processes include rolling or drawing, cutting, printing, laminating, drilling, welding two or more articles together, polishing, buffing, or thermoforming.
An imported article must have an end use function dependent in whole or in part on a shape or design that was present at the point of import. If the shape and design of an item at the point of import does not serve any function with respect to the item’s end use, the imported item is not an article.
Thus, plastic or metallic blocks or sheets imported and then processed in such a way that they entirely lose the shape they had at the point of import (e.g., by being melted down, molded, extruded, or further reacted) would not qualify as articles at the point of import. Conversely, if plastic or metallic sheeting is imported with a specific thickness, it can be cut to a different length or width and still be considered an imported article as long as this specific thickness is necessary for a certain application and this thickness is maintained in the processing to make the final product.
If the end use function of an item involves a phase change, the item does not have an end use function dependent in whole or in part on its shape or design during end use. Thus, if an item is imported as a solid with a specified shape, but the item is converted into a liquid or gas to serve the intended function during end use, the item would not be considered an article. This is the case for items such as soldering wire and welding rods or metal shapes that are melted and cast into new shapes. In addition, if an imported nonparticulate solid is converted into particles to serve the intended function during end use, the item does not have an end use function dependent in whole or in part on its shape or design during end use.
Imported items that are in a particular shape solely for the sake of shipping convenience are not considered articles because their end use is not dependent on the shape of the imported item.
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Imported items that undergo changes in chemical composition may still be articles if these changes have no commercial purpose separate from the commercial purpose of the article (e.g., production of chemical substances in the end use of photographic films, batteries, matches, and safety flares). However, if the products of the chemical change in the imported item have their own commercial purposes, separate from that of the imported item (e.g., they are themselves intermediates in the manufacture of some other chemical substance or they are separately distributed in commerce), the imported item is not an article.
These distinctions can be better understood with examples, which the EPA provides ample supply in a CDR fact sheet on articles.