HAZARDOUS WASTE EUROPE welcomes the Study for the strategy for a non-toxic environment recently published by the European Commission, whose aim is to check whether current legislation protects at the appropriate level consumers health and the environment against the risks due to chemical substances of concern during their life cyle.
«Waste » part of the cycle
For the « waste management » portion of the cycle, the Study estimates that current European legislation does not bring a adequate protection against the risks from chemical substances of concern in articles, waste and material cycles. In addition, the presence of theses substances in consumers products along their life cycle is likely to undermine circular economy.
In view of improving consumers safety and environment protection as well as fostering circular economy, it recommends, for the « waste » part of the cycle, that legislation be supplemented in order to :
- Garanty an integral information on the presence and the concentrations of chemical substances of concern in products and articles so that recyclers operate in full knowledge of the facts
- Avoid chemical substances of concern to enter articles and material cycles
- Bring the waste sector to decontaminate polluted waste before or during material recovery operations.
These provisions are necessary for the waste industry to produce certified non toxic material flows. From an operationnal point of view, it will bring waste recovery operators:
- To distinguish between end of life articles and their parts containing chemical substances of concern and those which do not
- To sort end of life articles and their parts by the contents of chemical substances of concern and to orient them towards the appropriate treatments
- To decontaminate waste containing chemical substances of concern before or during material recovery operations
- To inform downstream users on the quality and on the content of chemical substances of concern in recovered materials.
Authors believe waste treatment operations are the most appropriate point of the cycle for extracting chemical substances of concern from the material cycles.
To reach these recommendations, authors studied the fate of chemical substances of concern in the case of waste recycling. They noted that recyclers generally dilute waste containing chemical substances of concern with waste which does not, a practice which contaminates the entire waste flow as well as the subsequent recovered materials. This may lead to « new, unexpected exposure situations » and and may generate hazardous uses when used in products not forseen in the initial risk assesments. Brominated flame retardants (some of which are identified as endocrne disrupteers) are found in food contact articles. « Other well-known examples of problematic substances found in material flows include PCBs, lead, cadmium, and some highly fluorintaed substances. »
Risks for health and the environment are increased because several chemical substances of concern are generally present, entailing a cocktail effect, and because exposures are on the long-term and cumulatives. Chemical substances of concern are found in human body, animals et several sectors of the environment. Moreover, authors noted that waste contamination is likely to degrade the quality of recovered materials. And prohibited substances remain in materials and articles in use after the prohibition, not to mention that imported articles, are not or less subject to restrictions on chemical substances of concern. These phenomenon will grow due to the important growth of chemicals and articles quantities put on the market.
HAZARDOUS WASTE EUROPE agrees with the Study that current European legislation needs to be completed in order to ensure that materials recovered from polluted waste are non toxic and thus to encourage the transition towards a circular economy. This is necessary not only for protecting consumers health and encouraging efficient use of resources, as the Study concludes, but also to enhance the value of recovered materials, to reduce waste procucers liability, and ultimately to make sure that the starting circular economy will also be a sustainable economy.
In HAZARDOUS WASTE EUROPE ’s view, the legislator should preserve and even reinforce the level of protection provided by the regulation on hazardous waste. In addition all waste containing chemical substances of concern above the thresholds set by REACH or by the POP regulation should be regulated and managed so as to provide a high level of safety.
Entry point on the market
The Study also looks at the point of the cycle where products and chemical substances of concern are put on the market. It concludes the same that current European legislation does not adequately frame risks generated at this point.
Authors looked at ten other European directives or regulations regulating chemical substances of concern and products put on the market. The Study estimates that the loopholes of each of them are such that safety of consumers and environment protection are far from being garantied, while precisely these texts are ment to provide it. Example : the very limited and insufficient information on chemical substances of concern, which hinders consumers to choose articles in full knowledge and waste managers to make appropriate operational decisions.
 REACH, CLP, regulation on biocide products(BPR), POPs regulation , General Product Safety Directive, Construction product regulation (CPR), Toys safety directive (TSD), directive on medical devices, legislation on food contact materials, Ecodesign Directive.