1. Introduction and executive summary

The International Bromine Council (BSEF) would like to provide comments related to the review of the provisional low persistent organic pollutant content (LPC) values in the technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of wastes consisting of, containing or contaminated with persistent organic pollutants (POP). In particular, BSEF would like to address the value brackets of [[50 mg/kg] [500 mg/kg] [1000 mg/kg] as a sum] for hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether and tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether and decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) present in commercial decabromodiphenyl ether. BSEF is of the opinion that for the sum of BDEs any value below 1000 mg/kg is under the present circumstances not workable.

The following assessment provides a number of environmental and socio-economic impact effects resulting from a reduction of the low POP content related to the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV).

2. Addressing enforcement and analytical methods for the sum of BDEs in WEEEs and ELVs

The analytical methodologies and tools to measure the sum of BDEs in WEEEs and ELVs represent a prerequisite for successful compliance and enforcement of the low POP content values. Today the standardized methods are validated for concentrations at and above 1000 mg/kg[2]. This method, based on X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), has already proven its efficacy and logistical feasibility in the working environment, where prompt solutions to enable mechanical recycling processes are needed.

As no validated method is available for the bracketed levels of 50 mg/kg and 500 mg/kg, these values would not be enforceable.

Currently, 98% of WEEE brominated flame retardant (BFR) plastics collected can be separated and disposed of through official WEEE recycling channels[3]. Additionally, at the end of the recycling chain, the WEEE plastics recycler must prove that the recycled product complies with all product legislations at the national level. This means that legacy waste containing BDEs at the current level is currently being handled and disposed of safely. Compliant recycling is the best possible method to separate and properly dispose PBDEs from WEEE and ELV wastes, as this method ensures the separation of 98 % of plastics containing brominated flame retardants (incl. PBDEs) from WEEE and ELV plastics.

3. Addressing Parties’ concerns on transboundary shipments

Any reduction below 1000 mg/kg would lead to more complex requirements for treatment and enhance the risk of diverting significant volumes of WEE and ELV wastes to undocumented channels. Many countries do not possess advanced techniques for the identification of POPs in waste and cannot guarantee the safe handling and proper treatment of these substances.

Reducing the BDEs low POP content will neither reduce uncontrolled waste disposal nor help enforcement of national regulation (following COP decisions). Therefore, lowering the low POP content below 1000 mg/kg will not result in improved environmental performance.

4. Environmental impact of WEEE waste and related economic considerations

In Europe, it has been shown that recovering WEEE waste brings significant energy savings from the avoided emissions of the creation of virgin raw materials. It is a fact that each ton of plastic recycled, avoids the use of 90% of the energy that would have been needed and 4t CO2 that would have been emitted with primary plastics production.

A reduction of the BDEs low POP content below 1000 mg/kg will have the indirect effect of undermining the waste management operations in place today. BSEF is concerned that compliance and enforcement issues might arise if lower limits are adopted. As a consequence, failure to comply with the regulatory demands will expose operators to fines and eventually business cessation.

Lowering the current low POP content would also severely reduce the availability of secondary raw materials and plastics for recycling[4]. As no available method exists to enable proper identification of BDEs at levels below 1000 mg/kg, waste handlers will not be able to recycle WEEE and ELV wastes and have no choice but to send the PS foam to landfill or incineration. This will result in operational capacity reductions and investment uncertainties due to unclear amounts of available feedstock.

5. Conclusion

A low POP content of 1000 mg/kg is practical, effective, environmentally sound, and enforceable. It allows for the destruction of the vast majority of BDEs as contained in WEEE and ELV wastes, while it supports the economic viability of recycling wastes that do not contain BDEs.

In essence, a low POP content below 1000 mg/kg fails to meet basic technical and environmental requirements needed to satisfy compliance and enforcement duties. Any low POP content limit below 1000 mg/kg would pose significant and possibly disruptive challenges for the recycling value chain.

6. About the industry sector

BSEF – the International Bromine Council, is the global representative body for bromine producers and producers of bromine technologies. Founded in 1997, BSEF works to foster knowledge of the societal benefits of bromine and its applications. The members of BSEF are Albemarle Corporation, ICL Industrial Products, Lanxess, and Tosoh.

For further information, visit www.bsef.org.

[1]Study on the Impacts of Brominated Flame Retardants on the Recycling of WEEE plastics in Europe, Sofies, 2020; see in https://www.bsef.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Study-on-the-impact-of-Brominated-Flame-Retardants-BFRs-on-WEEE-plastics-recycling-by-Sofies-Nov-2020-1.pdf

[2] Ibidem


[4]Study on the Impacts of Brominated Flame Retardants on the Recycling of WEEE plastics in Europe, Sofies, 2020; see in https://www.bsef.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Study-on-the-impact-of-Brominated-Flame-Retardants-BFRs-on-WEEE-plastics-recycling-by-Sofies-Nov-2020-1.pdf