June 23, PRAGUE - Earlier this week, the European Council and Parliament reached an agreement on new limits on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in wastes, but unfortunately, the compromise approach will not substantively change current practices that put public health and the environment at risk. For example, for PBDEs, highly toxic chemicals used as flame retardants that are often found in recycled plastics, the limit under the new EU proposal is ten times higher than the limit proposed by the African region at recent global chemical treaty negotiations.
“The proposed limits clearly indicate that the EU intends to continue exporting their hazardous waste to Africa and other regions,” said Gilbert Kuepouo, IPEN Steering Committee member and Director of Centre de Recherche et d’Education pour le Développement (CREPD) in Cameroon. “It is troubling to see this approach put forward immediately after the recent Stockholm and Basel Convention meetings, where the EU had a chance to support the more protective standards put forward by the African region.”
The compromise EU proposal weakens the original approach proposed by the EU Parliament, which would have created greater health and environmental protections. In addition to the lax standard on PBDEs, the new limits would allow dioxins, POPs released during waste incineration, to remain at levels that would allow the vast majority of after-incineration-fly ash (about 90%) to be used as a construction material – a practice that industry favors but leaves the public and the environment at risk.
“We need stronger limits for POPs in waste, but sadly this week’s proposal will not get to the root of the problem. While the EU claims that their proposal will promote a circular economy, the reality is that under these weak limits, highly toxic POPs will continue to circulate in wastes, products, and the environment,” said Jindrich Petrlik, Program Director of Arnika’s Toxics and Waste Programme and an IPEN advisor on dioxins and waste.
POPs are the most toxic and persistent chemicals ever studied and include dioxins (PCDD/Fs), PCBs, PBDEs, and some PFAS. The Stockholm Convention requires the destruction of wastes that exceed POPs limit values and bans the recycling of wastes contaminated with POPs to maintain toxic-free material cycles. POPs limit values, also known as Low POPs Content Levels (LPCLs), are set by the Basel Convention and are a crucial tool to control potential releases of POPs due to improper handling of POPs wastes. IPEN and Arnika support strong LPCLs to protect human health and the environment.
For more on Low POPs Content Levels, see the IPEN website.
See the EU press release here.