Background & Objective

POPs are a group of organic compounds that possess toxic properties, persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food web and pose a risk to human health and the environment. POPs are transported across international boundaries far from their sources through air, water and migratory species.

The Protocol to the regional UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) and the Global Stockholm Convention on POPs are legally binding instruments aiming to reduce and eliminate the production, use and releases of POPs in the territories of all participating parties. Both contain provisions on the environmentally sound management of wastes consisting of, containing or contaminated by POPs (hereafter called “POP waste”).

Although substantial progress has been achieved in limiting the use and application of POPs and reduce their emission into the environment, there are ongoing releases into the environment as well as a constant cycling of substances released in the past. For an optimised approach to elimination, all sectors in the life cycle of a product and of anthropogenic emission sources need to be considered. In this framework, waste management is an essential sector for the control of POP releases into the environment. Consequently, a comprehensive regulation of POP containing waste might have the potential to reduce POP presence in the environment.

The Stockholm Convention was implemented into EU Community law in 2004 by the Regulation (EC) 850/2004 (POP Regulation). It foresees an obligation to generally destroy or irreversible transform the POP content of waste above certain concentration limits, but also contains the provision that in exceptional cases waste above the limits may be otherwise managed with defined operations for specified waste types if destruction or irreversible transformation do not represent the environmentally preferable option and the concentration in such wastes are below another threshold.

In 2006, concentration limits were defined for 14 POP substances and substance classes. In 2009, further new substances were added to the annexes of the Stockholm Convention (SC) by decision of the fourth conference of the parties (COP-4). In 2017, three new substances have been added to the Annexes of the SC and proposals have been submitted for three candidate substances. Any amendment of the SC must be transposed and implemented by parties within one year after its publication, so that the EU is requested to amend the POP Regulation by May 2018. Therefore, the following substances require analysis and the establishment or review of limit values:

  • New POPs: Decabromodiphenylether (decaBDE), short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) and Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD)

In addition, it was proposed to add three substances and substance groups to the annexes of the SC. These substances are currently under review procedures and are likely to be added to the SC in the next years, so that they are called “candidate POPs”. Although the substances are listed or proposed for inclusion into the SC, there is lack of knowledge on used quantities, concentrations and sources as well as on aspects related to waste management in terms of disposal and recycling. Consequently, further analysis is needed for the following substances:

  • Candidate POPs: Dicofol, Pentadecafluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, perfluorooctanoic acid) and its salts and PFOA-related compounds, Perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxS) and its salts and PFHxS-related compounds

Furthermore, new scientific information on three substances already listed in the annexes of the SC has raised the necessity of reviewing already established concentration limits. Therefore, the following substances require renewed analysis and, potentially adjustment of the concentration limits:

  • Already listed POPs: Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB), Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDF)