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Threshold risk for pollutants could be ‘devastating’ for recycling targets

Austria – Some 8 million tonnes of plastics are used in electronics and vehicles each year, according to Chris Slijkhuis of Austria’€™s Müller-Guttenbrunn Group. Approximately 65% of this consists of recyclable components suitable for the production of technical plastics, he has stated at the latest International Automobile Recycling Congress (IARC) in Vienna.

Around 35% of solid plastic waste fractions of various types are not being recycled, Slijkhuis told delegates gathered in the Austrian capital for the 18th edition of the annual IARC event.

He warned that a sizeable proportion of these plastics includes brominated flame retardants (BFRs), which can be found both in end-of-life vehicles and in electronics waste in parts that are often located near heat sources such as engines and power supplies.

Such BFR-contaminated plastics are currently being separated and incinerated in order to eliminate potentially hazardous chemicals ending up in the recycling stream. This is vital, Slijkhuis noted, because some of them are considered to be persistent organic pollutants, or POPs.

Discussions are ongoing to reduce the thresholds for these pollutants, with the likelihood that the threshold risk will be lowered to such an extent that the recycling of engineering plastics from e-scrap and end-of-life cars ‘would be impossible’, Slijkhuis lamented.

He concluded: ‘A decision in this direction would be devastating for the recycling targets of e-scrap and end-of-life vehicles that are set within the EU.’

A more in-depth review of the IARC event will be featured in the 2018/No. 3 issue of Recycling International.

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