The European Union (EU) has taken an important step towards cleaning up its recycling; it will no longer allow materials containing a class of toxic, globally banned flame retardants known as PBDEs to be recycled. Researchers had revealed that across Europe, alarming levels of toxic banned flame retardants and related chemicals, which originated largely from discarded electronics equipment, were contaminating the recycling stream and new consumer goods made from recycled plastics. Environmental health advocates applaud the EU’s decision and encourage the six remaining countries with PBDE recycling exemptions to follow suit.
PBDE flame retardant chemicals, known to disrupt thyroid function and cause neurological and attention deficits in children, were banned globally via the Stockholm Convention a decade ago. However, the class of chemicals continue to contaminate consumer goods made from recycled plastics because the EU, along with Brazil, Canada, Cambodia, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey, took advantage of a loophole in the Stockholm Convention that allowed the banned chemicals in recycling and requested an exemption for prolonged use. The EU recently submitted a letter withdrawing its exemption. The decision by the EU to keep POPs flame retardants out of recycling will also reduce the prevalence of dioxins in products made from recycled materials.
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