On August 22, 2017, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) released two reports on substances of very high concern (SVHCs) in the circular economy.

The first report explores to what extent waste streams contain SVHCs. The Dutch government’s program “The Netherlands circular in 2050” identifies five priority supply chains and sectors in the transition towards a circular economy: Biomass and food, plastics, production/manufacturing, construction, and consumer products. According to the report, various SVHCs can be present in waste streams relevant for these chains and sectors, which may hamper safe recycling. Examples include flame retardants and phthalates in plastics, dyestuffs and pigments in textiles, and heavy metals in agricultural residue streams. RIVM makes recommendations regarding prioritization of SVHCs and waste streams, advises on establishing a decision scheme for waste treatment options, and calls for the development of safer alternatives to SVHCs to ensure safe product loops.

The second report provides a decision scheme to determine whether a waste stream can be safely recycled or not. In addition, the report sets a general concentration limit value of 0.1% for SVHCs in waste streams. For certain SVHCs, stricter, substance-specific concentration limits apply. If the limit value is exceeded, a risk analysis has to be carried out to assess whether the waste should be disposed of or whether it can be recycled. The general concentration limit value is based on the EU regulations on the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP), the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), as well as the EU Waste Framework Directive.

Read more

RIVM (August 23, 2017). “Substances of very high concern hamper recycling.

Chemical Watch (August 23, 2017). “RIVM publishes hazardous substances in waste streams study.


Wassenaar P.N.H. et al. (2017). “Substances of very high concern and the transition to a circular economy: An initial inventory.RIVM Report 2017-0071 (published online August 22, 2017).

Wassenaar P.N.H. et al. (2017). “Concentration limit value for substances of very high concern in waste streams.RIVM Report 2017-0099 (published online August 22, 2017; in Dutch).