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Mapping and Evaluation of some Restricted Chemical Substances in Recycled Plastics Originating from ELV and WEEE Collected in Europe
RISE - Research Institutes of Sweden, Materials and Production, IVF. (Polymera material)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0020-4228
RISE - Research Institutes of Sweden, Materials and Production, IVF. (Polymera material)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6496-7111
RISE - Research Institutes of Sweden, Materials and Production, IVF. (Analys och certifiering)
2019 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Recycling of plastics is a critical step toward the realisation of a sustainable society. Plastic is a fitting material to recycle, as it often can easily be melted and formed into new products. Plastic recycling is therefore an easy process with pure plastics, however, most of the plastics that are recycled today are not pure and contain additives and/or impurities. Some of these additives can be hazardous substances that could be harmful for both humans and the environment. It is therefore important that these hazardous substances are not recycled and transferred into new products. To ensure a safe use of plastics, these substances are today regulated in new products, but old products could still contain these substances (legacy chemicals). To comply with legislation it is therefore critical that these substances are removed during the recycling process. There are however many hazardous substances that are yet not regulated, which may also be present in products and therefore recycled material. 

Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) and End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) are two of the materials streams that contains a high amount of legacy chemicals. These streams have been associated with spreading legacy chemicals after recycling. In several reports WEEE plastics have been identified as the source of brominated flame retardants (BRF) found in toys and everyday items. According to the EU regulation the use of certain BFRs is not permitted in new products or articles above a certain value. Recyclers and resellers of the recycled plastic often specified that the products should not be used in toys, medical equipment of food contact application, yet BFRs from WEEE can still be found in these products. This could mean that either producers that use recycled material in new products do not follow the recommendations from the recyclers, or that the recycled material does not fulfil the regulations. Another possibility for the findings of legacy chemicals in these items could be a meagre follow-up on imported plastics.

In this study the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) has, on behalf of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket), investigated the content of legacy chemicals in recycled plastics that have been processed in a recycling facility. The plastics originated from WEEE and ELV and have been gathered from recyclers across Europe. A number of different legacy chemicals were investigated, both inorganic (Cd, Pb, Hg) and organic substances (flame retardants and plasticisers). To simulate a real case scenario and to get better measurement accuracy, all samples were injection moulded. The analysis of the samples was performed using X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF), Inductively coupled plasma (ICP) and Gas chromatography with a Mass spectrometer (GC-MS). All the processing and analysis (except for SCCP/MCCP)) were done by RISE which gives good control over the analysis process, which are important when interpreting the results. In total 54 samples of PE, PP, ABS and PS, were gathered and tested. It was found that all but two samples contained legacy chemicals below the regulated values. The two samples that did not meet the legal limit had a HBCDD content above 100 ppm. All the tested materials contained detectable amounts of bromine, and 15 samples contained detectable amounts of regulated BFRs. None of the detected regulated BRFs were above 186 ppm.  Most of the materials also contained detectable amounts of cadmium and lead.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Mölndal, 2019. , p. 87
Series
RISE Rapport ; 2019:28
Keywords [en]
regulated chemicals, flame retardant, plastic, polymer, recycling, WEEE, ELV, BFR
Keywords [sv]
reglerade kemikalier, flamskyddsmedel, plast, polymer, återvinning, WEEE, ELV, BFR
National Category
Textile, Rubber and Polymeric Materials
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ri:diva-38176ISBN: 978-91-88907-54-7 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ri-38176DiVA, id: diva2:1295690
Funder
Swedish Environmental Protection AgencyAvailable from: 2019-03-12 Created: 2019-03-12 Last updated: 2019-06-28

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Andersson, MattiasOxfall, Henrik

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