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EU Council and Parliament agree to reduce limit values for the presence of persistent organic pollutants in waste

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The Council and the Parliament reached a provisional deal concerning the revision of annexes to the persistent organic pollutant regulation in order to set further restrictions to the presence of these substances in waste.

Persistent organic pollutants are particularly harmful chemicals. Although they are generally no longer used in new products, they can still be found in waste coming from some consumer products such as waterproof textiles, furniture, plastics and electronic equipment. In order to reach a circular economy, where waste will be increasingly used as a secondary raw material, limiting the presence of persistent organic pollutants in waste is crucial.

The Council and Parliament therefore agreed to introduce new chemicals on the list of persistent organic pollutants and to restrict their presence in waste by strengthening the concentration limit values.

The terms of the provisional agreement were the following:

  • PFOA: the Council and Parliament include PFOAs into the regulation. The maximum limit value was set at 1 mg/kg for PFOA and its salts and at 40 mg/kg for PFOA-related compounds, with a review clause to re-evaluate the situation, 5 years after the entry into force of the regulation.
  • Dioxins and furans: (PCDDs/PCDFs and dl-PCBs): the limit value for dioxins and furans was set at 5 μg/kg. The limit value for these substances in domestic ashes and soot will apply from 1 January 2025. The value limits for these substances in fly ashes from biomass units for heat and power production will apply one year after the entry into force of the regulation, with a transitional value of set at 10 μg/kg in the meantime.The purpose is to allow member states’ authorities to examine the situation in further detail in order to implement the regulation effectively. Member States would collect and make the data available by 1 July 2026 at the latest. The limit values will be reviewed 5 years after the entry into force of the regulation.
  • PFHxS: the limit value was set at 1mg/kg for PFHxS and its salts and at 40mg/kg for PFHxS related compounds. The values will be reviewed 5 years after the entry into force. This substance was not initially included in the Commission’s proposal but the colegislators added it, following a decision of the Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention, to add this substance in Annex A of the Convention on 9 June.
  • HBCDD: the colegislators agreed on a two-step limit value reduction at 500mg/kg at the entry into force of the regulation and a review clause to lower that value to 200mg/kg, 5 years after entry into force of the regulation. This is to allow the demolition sector to adapt while sending a signal for them to improve their sorting methods.
  • PBDE: the agreement foresees a three-step approach with a limit value set at 500mg/kg at the entry into force of the regulation; an automatic reduction to 350 mg/kg, 3 years after the entry into force; and another automatic reduction to 200mg/kg, 5 years after the entry into force, provided that the limit value to place this substance on the market is not higher. This is to avoid a situation where a product can be placed on the European market legally (Annex I), but is considered POP waste once it is withdrawn from the market (Annex IV). Annex I is set to be reviewed meanwhile.
  • SCCPs: the colegislators agreed to set the limit value at 1500mg/kg with a review clause 5 years after the entry into force.
  • In addition, the Commission will assess whether to amend EU waste legislation to assess if waste containing any persistent organic pollutants exceeding the concentration limits indicated in Annex IV to the POP regulation should be classified as hazardous.

Background and next steps

The proposed regulation aims to bring the EU’s legislation into line with its international commitments, particularly under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. To achieve this, it will add some substances to annex IV of the POPs regulation (Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 on persistent organic pollutants) and update the concentration limit values for some substances in annexes IV and V of that regulation. The proposal concerns mainly the following substances:

  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts and related compounds – found in waterproof textiles and fire-fighting foams
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – flame retardants found in plastics and textiles used in electrical and electronic equipment, vehicles and furniture;
  • Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) – flame retardant found in some plastic and textile waste, particularly in polystyrene insulation from demolition of buildings;
  • Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) – flame retardants found in some rubber and plastic waste, such as rubber conveyor belts, hoses, cables and seals;
  • Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) – these substances are not produced or added to materials intentionally but are present as impurities in certain ashes and in other industrial waste;
  • Dioxin-like PCBs – similar to dioxins, these PCBs can be present as impurities in some ashes and industrial oils. Limits for these specific PCBs are proposed, together with those for dioxins.

The Commission submitted the proposal for a regulation to the European Parliament and the Council on 28 October 2021.

In the Council, the provisional political agreement found today will first be submitted for endorsement by the Committee of permanent representatives. A formal adoption procedure will then be launched.


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