MEPs push for reduction of harmful chemicals in waste

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are calling for stricter limits on the permitted levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in products. In a statement, the Parliament stated that materials containing levels of POPs that are too high must be destroyed or incinerated, and cannot be recycled. This, MEPs assert, would ‘protect the circular lifespan of products’, and mitigate the threat that POPs pose to the environment and human health.

EU parliamentThe statement follows the European Commission’s proposal to review the Annexes IV and V of the 2019 regulation on POPs on 28 October 2021 to ensure they are aligned with the international obligations, particularly the Stockholm Convention whose main goal is 'to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants'.

The proposal, the Parliament says, is going in ‘the right direction’, but should go further by introducing significantly lower permitted levels of POPs in products. This would ‘align the POPs Regulation better with the EU Green Deal’s goals – especially the ambition for a toxic-free environment and a truly circular economy’.

On Tuesday (3 May), the European Parliament adopted its negotiating position for the new rules on POPs and the management of waste containing them, with 506 votes in favour, 68 against, and 49 abstentions. The position is calling for the limit threshold on a group of brominated flame retardants to be reduced to 200 mg/kg from the Commission’s proposed 500 mg/kg, and the limit threshold on perfluorooctanoic acid to be lowered from the proposed 40 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg.

MEPs are also urging that the regulation cover the synthetic chemical compound perfluorohexanesulfonic acid, anticipating their inclusion in a list of harmful substances by the Stockholm Convention COP-10, scheduled to take place next month.

Rapporteur Martin Hojsík (Renew, SK), said: “We cannot tolerate the presence of persistent organic pollutants in materials and waste, otherwise there will be no circular economy in the EU and no sustainable textiles, but an economy of toxic recycled products.

“Parliament’s position is a step towards cleaning it from POPs such as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) or dioxines. It will help EU companies to be more sustainable and to ensure citizens can trust in recycled products.”