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News article21 June 2022Directorate-General for Environment

Eliminating harmful chemicals: Commission welcomes political agreement reached on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in waste

The Commission welcomes the political agreement reached last night between the European Parliament and the Council on the Commission’s proposal to protect human health and the environment from Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) - a set of very harmful chemicals that can be found in some waste streams.

The agreement paves the way to setting stringent limits for these chemicals in waste, preventing them from re-entering the economy through recycled materials. Existing limits have been tightened for five substances and new limits have been agreed for four new substances. This includes the substance Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), listed recently as a POP substance in the Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention. This swift action sends an extremely powerful message about the diligence and commitment of the EU to deal with POPs in waste, and to lead the way toward a toxic-free environment internationally. 

Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:

Last night the EU took a decisive step towards protecting our health and environment from persistent organic pollutants chemicals in waste. We are delivering on our promise to eradicate the most harmful chemicals from our daily lives. Ambitious limits for these substances are also needed to foster high-quality, toxic-free secondary materials that can be safely used in a growing circular economy.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are chemicals with toxic properties that remain in the environment for a very long time, accumulate in food chains and can harm human health and the environment. With this amendment of the POPs regulation agreed yesterday we further advance in complying with the objective to eliminate or minimise POPs’ emissions from waste. Although Persistent Organic Pollutants are generally no longer used in new products, they can still be found in waste coming from some consumer products such as waterproof textiles, furniture, plastics and electronic equipment.

With the measure agreed yesterday, the EU provides itself with stringent limits for the following four substances, or groups of substances, in waste:

  • perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts and related compounds – found in waterproof textiles and fire-fighting foams;
  • perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) and its salts and related compounds – with similar uses and a “regrettable substitute” of PFOA.;
  • dicofol – a pesticide, previously used in agriculture;
  • pentachlorophenol, its salts and esters – found in treated wood and textiles.

In addition, the maximum limits in waste for another five substances or substance groups that are already regulated are all tightened:

  • 5 Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – flame retardants found in plastics and textiles used in electrical and electronic equipment, vehicles and furniture;
  • Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) – flame retardant found in some plastic and textile waste, particularly in polystyrene insulation from demolition of buildings;
  • Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) – flame retardant found in some rubber and plastic waste, such as rubber conveyor belts, hoses, cables and seals;
  • Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) – these substances are not produced or added to materials intentionally but are present as impurities in certain ashes and in other industrial waste;
  • Dioxin-like PCBs – similar to dioxins, these PCBs can be present as impurities in some ashes and industrial oils. Limits for these specific PCBs are proposed, together with those for dioxins.

The proposal is an important step in achieving a more circular economy as announced under the Circular Economy Action Plan. Itcontributes to the European Green Deal’s Zero Pollution Action Plan and to the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability with its associated action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), often dubbed "forever chemicals".

Details

Publication date
21 June 2022
Author
Directorate-General for Environment

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