Bridging the Gap: A Circular Future for WEEE Plastics and BFRs
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Bridging the Gap: A Circular Future for WEEE Plastics and BFRs

BSEF, together with dss⁺, a leading provider of operations management consulting services in the field of sustainability, conducted a study on the impact of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) on the recycling of Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) plastics in Europe [1] 

The study reveals a significant decline in the levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), identified as a Persistent Organic Pollutant, in WEEE plastics over the past decade. The study also highlights the potential of innovative and emerging recycling technologies such as CreaSolv, PLAST2bCLEANED, and NONTOX, in handling bromine-rich polymers and recovering valuable materials from WEEE plastics.  

Europe continues to produce ≈ 2.6 million tonnes of WEEE plastics annually, yet only 54% (1.4 million tons) are collected through official WEEE channels. This implies that over 45% of the WEEE plastics enter informal or undocumented waste streams which result in non-compliant recycling methods, exports, or disposal by incineration or landfill. Today, only 7% of the WEEE plastics are actually recycled and this implies huge improvement potentials. 

To unlock these potentials, the study lists key recommendations to improve the circularity of WEEE plastics, including:  

  • Collection systems need to be strengthened while regulations on the treatment of BFRs and PBDEs should be harmonised at international level. 
  • Technological innovation must be promoted by a more stable legal framework. 
  • The establishment of a standardised and centralised data base on the development of the occurrence of restricted substances.  
  • Circularity can be improved through behavioural change: circular economy practices ought to be promoted, by the inclusion of recycled plastics into the inclusion of new electronic products.

Overall, despite the PBDE decline in plastic waste and the emergence of innovative technologies, there is still a lot of room for further action to be taken across the value chain to ensure proper recycling of WEEE plastics and recovery of bromine.  

Make sure to keep an eye out for the full upcoming study which includes clear recommendations for policymakers, the recycling industry, and producers!  

[1] NB – As the study has yet to be finalised, the results presented here are preliminary and subject to minor changes.

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