On October 16, 2018, the non-profit organizations Arnika Association, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), and International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) released a new report entitled “Toxic loophole: Recycling hazardous waste into new products.” The study reveals that “toxic brominated flame retardants, hazardous chemicals from electronic waste that are known to disrupt thyroid function and cause neurological and attention deficits in children, are contaminating recycled plastics in consumer products across Europe,” HEAL’s press release of the same day reads.
The organizations measured the content of bromine and antimony in plastic products for children, such as toys, hair accessories, and food contact articles. The products with elevated levels were then further analyzed for the presence of specific brominated flame retardants, including polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD, CAS 3194-55-6). 109 of the 403 tested products had elevated bromine/antimony levels, and varying concentrations of PBDEs, HBCD, or “new” brominated flame retardants were measured in the majority of these samples.
In light of their results, Arnika, HEAL, and IPEN urge the EU “to guarantee that recycled plastics meet the same standards as new plastics.” They propose that the EU should “adopt a limit of 50 ppm for PBDEs and 100 ppm for HBCD in the European POPs waste law and in the international Basel and Stockholm Conventions.” However, the EU intends “to codify 20 times more toxic material into the waste stream with a proposal that would allow 1,000 ppm for PBDEs and HBCD to be recycled from toxic e-waste,” HEAL explains. Therefore, the organizations call on “Members of European Parliament to vote against any exemptions for recycled plastics during the plenary session that is expected to take place at the earliest 22 October.” On October 4, 2018, Arnika, HEAL, IPEN, and other health advocates sent a letter to the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) demanding the “adoption of progressive limits for PBDEs and HBCD in recycled plastics and the setting of strict, scientifically sound limits for low POPs content levels to effectively protect human health and the environment from POPs and ensure a clean circular economy.”
Chemical Watch (October 8, 2018). “ENVI urged to reject proposed EU POPs amendments.”
Luke Buxton (October 18, 2018). “NGOs urge EU to end POPs exemptions for recycled plastics.” Chemical Watch
Straková, J., et al. (October 2018). “Toxic loophole: Recycling hazardous waste into new products.” Arnika, IPEN, HEAL (pdf)