The Environment Agency has outlined its position on the treatment of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) used in the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). The changes, brought about by a recast of EU regulation, will significantly impact the industry.
POPs are man-made compounds used in plastic components and casings that persist when exposed to heat. Whilst their use has been phased out in recent years, POPs are frequently found in waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Bioaccumulating through the food chain, they pose a risk to human health and the environment.
The recast of the EU Regulation on POPs (2019/1021), which was adopted on 20 June 2019 and is now binding on all member states, has set tougher controls on these flame retardants.
Following research conducted by the Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling (ICER), and funded by the 2018 WEEE compliance fee fund, the EA outlined its position on the treatment of POPs at a meeting for the council in July, with clarification on the disposal routes that must now be applied.
The position means that many items, in particular small mixed WEEE, cathode ray tube TVs and screens, and flat screen TVs are likely to contain POPs, which renders them hazardous. This means that the plastics derived from these streams can no longer be recycled without separate treatment and must be destroyed or transformed in compliance with the regulation, such as using high-temperature incineration plants.
The interim results of the ICER research has shown that PBDEs – a type of persistent organic pollutant – to be present at levels above the threshold level in the Displays and Other WEEE streams. As a result, plastics derived from these streams can no longer be recycled without the separation of the PBDE-containing fraction.
The EA has said that it will issue full guidance to WEEE treatment operators to ensure that the removal and disposal of material containing these compounds is in compliance with the revised rules.
The changes will increase the treatment costs for WEEE, initially for small mixed WEEE and display equipment. As a result, it is therefore likely that the cost of compliance for WEEE producers of these types of products will increase. In addition, concerns have been raised about the impact of the EU ruling on WEEE reuse. EA guidance is awaited for this sector.
Vikkie Fitzgerald, WEEE Compliance Scheme Manager, said: “These new controls are highly significant, and will undoubtedly increase the cost of WEEE recycling for all concerned. As more information becomes available, we will be working closely with our WEEE members to ensure they understand how the changes to regulations may affect their business.”
If you have any questions about POPs and your compliance with the WEEEE regulations, please get in touch with our WEEE Compliance Scheme Manager, Vikkie Fitzgerald, on 0845 129 7177.
Clarity’s WEEE compliance scheme provides its members with low cost and simple compliance, alongside exceptional member support. If you would like to discuss compliance with the WEEE regulations, get in touch with a member of our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0845 129 7177.