Axion Polymers has welcomed the EU Commission’s proposal to put a 500 parts per million (ppm) limit of flame retardant decaBDE’s within recycled compounds and articles.
The plastics recycler believes that this proposal will ‘leave the door open’ for plastic recycling and the use of recyclates in new products.
It has described the 500ppm level in recycled plastics as a ‘workable solution’, although it would be more difficult to achieve than the proposed 1,000ppm in line with most REACH and ROHS regulations.
Axion associate consultant Keith Freegard said: “Professional companies that have spent time trying to inform and address the EU Parliament in the management of decaBDEs in recycled plastics will welcome the recast of the EU directive as a sensible way forward.”
He added that advanced separating, sorting and refining plants can hit the 500ppm limit for output plastic resins: “It also means we can continue recycling plastics at our Trafford Park and Salford facilities, and crucially, that our customers can continue to use recycled plastics in eco-design components along circular economy principles.”
While the 500ppm is a workable agreement, the planned review in the EU after just two years could pose further business challenges for recyclers, said Keith, who believes that this timescale is “too short” for long-term projects.
He said: “For a review of the acceptable level of decaBDEs in recycled plastic mixtures, industry should show the regulators how the rate declines over time as eventually these legacy additives are mostly eradicated in new components.”
Since before 2012 when decaBDEs entered the REACH SVHC list, the effect from not using these chemicals was being seen, with car manufacturers reducing their use since 2008-2012. The Axion consultant said that a similar ‘ramp down’ would be evident in waste plastics but delayed by the average lifetime of a vehicle, which is around 13 years.
The United Nations Basel Convention met at CoP 14 in Geneva at the end of April, where they addressed a set of treatment guidelines for the WASTE plastic raw materials, which are the input feedstock to advanced recycling processes inside Europe, and also exported around the world as waste raw materials.
Concerns about the high levels of decaBDE and other additives within the part-processed waste plastics sent for export, Keith said that there is a need to set ‘sensible and pragmatic’ levels in these materials.
He argued that the level set for input waste streams to recyclers should be higher than that for output polymer products. This is because final, accurate separation of BFR containing plastic particles is done using advanced technology in refining plants.
Partnered with this should be a tougher regime for the global movement of waste plastics that don’t meet the controls.
“Those materials should be processed in the domestic market, ensuring banned chemicals are removed and supporting further investment in large-scale technical plants in Europe” said Keith.
He warned that exporting banned flame-retardant plastic to Asia, without proper controls, risks “cheap, uncontrolled” imports back into Europe, in which the banned chemicals haven’t been removed.
According to Keith, setting sensible and pragmatic levels for decaBDE limits in waste plastics moved across the world would:
- Ensure a ‘level playing field’ for high-tech recyclers
- Stop the escape of valuable resources to other countries
- Help to ensure that imported goods made with recycled WEEE or ELV plastics meet EU safety standards
- Encourage much-needed investment in European and UK recycling infrastructure, further developing the transition to a circular economy for plastics.