What are POPs and how are they relevant to hazardous waste?

Q

What are POPs and how are they relevant to hazardous waste?

A

POPs are Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The Environment Agency (EA) guidance document on the assessment of hazardous waste (guidance note WM3), defines waste containing specified POPs at concentrations of 50mg/kg or below qualifies as hazardous. If the waste contains dioxins or furans, at a concentration of only 15 µg/kg it will also render the waste hazardous.

In August 2019, a new EU POP Regulation 2019/1021 came into force, which makes some changes to the Annexes classifying POPs for different purposes. Although WM3 has not been amended, the Regulation has serious implications for those who deal with WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment). Brominated flame retardants including Deca-BDE have been added to the list of POPs: these chemicals are commonly found in the plastic components of WEEE, eg from cathode ray tubes (CRT) and small household electrical items. The Environment Agency has advised that any WEEE likely to contain these chemicals must be classified as hazardous waste and disposed of by high temperature incineration. This could severely limit the reuse and recycling of WEEE.

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