Waste containing POPs can be especially harmful to the environment and to human health. When disposing of waste containing POPs above certain concentration limits, the POP content must be destroyed or irreversibly transformed so that it is no longer harmful.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are a group of organic compounds that have toxic properties, persist in the environment, accumulate in food chains and pose a risk to human health and the environment. Because of their persistence, these chemicals have the potential to be transported across international boundaries far from their source - through air, water and migratory species.
POPs include pesticides such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls and terphenyls (PCBs/PCTs), and unintentional by-products of industrial processes, for example dioxins and furans. The EU has developed specific rules to deal with some of these chemical waste streams.
In order to address the risks posed by POPs, the international community came together to conclude several agreements to reduce and eliminate these substances. The Stockholm Convention on POPs was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004. It aims to protect human health and the environment from POPs. It promotes global action on these substances and requires Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.
In addition, under the Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal, parties have to ensure that waste - including hazardous waste - is managed in an environmentally sound way.
Find out more about POPs and EU chemicals policy.
Waste containing POP substances must be managed in an environmentally sound way. It must minimise emissions of POPs to air, water and soil – with the ultimate aim of eliminating these emissions. When disposing of waste containing POPs above certain concentration limits, the POP content must be destroyed or irreversibly transformed.
- Regulation on persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
- Proposal for a Regulation amending the annexes of the Regulation on persistent organic pollutants – and see the Roadmap
The European Union adopted the POPs Regulation to uphold the aims of the Stockholm Convention and the UNECE Protocol on POPs.
- 28 October 2021Commission adopts proposal for a Regulation amending the annexes of the Regulation on persistent organic pollutants
- 15 July 2019New Regulation on POPs enters into force, replacing the 2004 Regulation
- 20 May 2004Regulation on POPs enters into force
- Study to support the assessment of impacts associated with the review of limit values in waste for POPs listed in Annexes IV and V of Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 (2021)
- Study to support the review of waste related issues in Annexes IV and V of Regulation (EC) 850/2004 (2019)
- Study on waste related issues of newly listed POPs and candidate POPs (2011)
- Study to facilitate the implementation of certain waste related provisions of the Regulation on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) final report (executive summary, summary report, synthesis report, clarification, corrigendum and annexes) (2005)
Main law: EU POPs Regulation
Entry into force: 15 July 2019
Related topics:ChemicalsCircular economyIndustryPersistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)PlasticsREACHRoHS Waste and recycling WEEE
Related strategies: Chemicals strategy for sustainabilityCircular economy action plan
Related Commission priorities: European Green Deal
For questions about EU environmental policy, please contact Europe Direct.