On March 22, 2016 the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) published a report entitled “Plastics that contain hazardous substances: Recycle or incinerate?” Plastic recycling is favorable in the process of moving towards a more sustainable, circular economy. However, many plastics contain chemicals of concern (COC) and their recycling could increase exposure for both humans and the environment. The RIVM report outlines current waste-processing procedures, the technical background of plastic recycling and the legislation around recycling. RIVM elaborates the dilemma of plastic recycling in two different case studies: Expanded polystyrene (EPS) containing the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD, CAS 3194-55-6), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic tubes containing the plasticizer diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP, CAS 117-81-7), as well as cadmium and lead. RIVM notes that “new technologies have made it possible to extract substances from plastics, for example the persistent organic fire retardant HBCDD in expanded polystyrene.” Further, “polymers with dangerous substances can be re-used in a way that does not cause harm to humans and the environment,” RIVM states. In conclusion, RIVM recommends simplified policies on plastic recycling to boost circularity, as well as legislation that encourages innovative purification techniques to remove COCs from recyclable plastics.
RIVM (March 22, 2016). “New possibilities for the responsible recycling of plastics.”
Chemical Watch (March 22, 2016). “Dutch institute reports on recycling HBCDD and DEHP-containing plastic.”
Janssen, M.P.M. et al. (2016). “Plastics that contain hazardous substances: Recycle or incinerate?” RIVM (pdf)