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Keep the Promise, Eliminate POPs in Waste!

Since 2001, Arnika - Toxics and Waste Programme hosts the secretariat of the Dioxin, PCBs and Waste Working Group of IPEN (International POPs Elimination Network), and since 2008 it is an IPEN coordination center for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Region. We also coordinate important projects of the international campaign Keep the Promise, Eliminate POPs (persistent organic pollutants).

It involved for example international monitoring of POPs in free-range chicken eggs, a project joined by NGOs from 17 countries, which resulted in three studies presented at the Stockholm Convention meetings: The Egg Report: Contamination of chicken eggs from 17 countries by dioxins, PCBs and hexachlorobenzene; The Next Generation of POPs: PBDEs and Lindane; and the last global report from 2009: DDT in Eggs – A Global Review. Arnika’s activities in this campaign on national level often overlap with activities of Toxics-Free Future campaign.

What is the problem?

The Council of the European Union is going to decide on the limits for persistent organic pollutants (POPs) levels in wastes. These limits will be set as a lower limit (low POPs limit) and a upper limit (maximum POPs content limit and/or derogation threshold) - see Table 1. Waste between these two limits will be allowed to go to the appropriate landfills. Waste exceeding POPs levels of upper limit will have to go through destruction or irreversible transformation process. All wastes below the lower limit will not qualify as POPs waste and will be allowed to be used after solidification (which is not clearly defined) for construction purposes, for example.

EU upper limits are according to definition, comparable to low POPs content according to the Stockholm Convention, so we can expect that the EU will force the approval of its upper limits as the low POPs content limit according to article 6 of the Stockholm Convention, resulting in the global contamination by POPs - see this Comparison. If we look at the proposed levels the lower limit proposed under EU POPs Regulation are high, when we consider that these levels [of dioxins] in soils led to the critical contamination of the food chain in areas surrounding a waste incinerator in France and/or in footpaths around food producing areas in Newcastle where mixed (fly and bottom ash) waste incineration ashes were applied. More examples can be found on our hot spots map.

Comparison with current legislation in EU member states

The proposed limit values for POPs are far more permissive than current limits in EU Member States. For example: In Germany, soils containing PCBs at levels exceeding 0,1 ppm are prohibited for use as re-cultivation layers in landfills. The levels proposed by BiPRO would allow the use of soils with 30 or 50 ppm PCBs; 300 - 500 times less protective than current German law. In the Czech Republic, PCDD/Fs at 0.5 ppb in residential soils requires clean up action. In contrast, BiPRO has proposed levels of 10 - 15 ppb; 20 - 30 less protective than current Czech law. In Austria, the PCDD/Fs of 0.1 ppb in waste incineration residues requires special treatment reduce levels in these wastes. BiPRO did not even include a threshold value for this medium, completely undermining Austrian law. Finally, the proposed BiPRO limits are substantially weaker than comparable regulations in the USA and Japan (see an example of USA limits in Table 3).

We believe that new proposals for POPs limits in wastes should not undermine existing standards. We suggest the following as more appropriate levels for POPs in waste in the Table 2 below.


Table 1: By BiPRO proposed limit for POPs values in waste according to the European Parliament and Council regulation 850/2004/EC

POPs group Low POPs Content Limits Maximum POPs Content Limits
PCBs 30 or 50 ppm 2,000 ppm
POP pesticides 10 or 50 ppm 5,000 ppm
Other POPs (HCB) 10 or 50 ppm 5,000 ppm

Table 2: By NGOs, deputies of local authorities and experts recommended thresholds for EU waste POPs content

POPs group Low POPs Content Limits Maximum POPs Content Limits
PCDD/PCDF 0.1 ppb 0.5 - 1 ppb
PCBs in WHO-TEQ limits 0.1 ppb 0.5 - 1 ppb or to include their values under proposed PCDD/Fs
PCBs 2.5 ppm 10 ppm
POPs pesticides 0.5 - 1 ppm 2.5 ppm
Other POPs (HCB) 0.5 - 1 ppm 2.5 ppm

Table 3: Health-Based Hazardous Waste Residue Concentration Limits in USA Stated by Administrative Order 40 CFR Pt. 266 App. VII

POPs substance Concentration limits for residues (mg/kg) = ppm;
Aldrin 0.00002
Chlordane 0.0003
DDT 0.001
Dieldrin 0.00002
Dioxins 0.00000006
Endrin 0.02
Heptachlor 0.00008
Hexachlorobenzene 0.0002
Mirex/Kepone N/A
PCBs 0.00005
Toxaphene 0.005

BiPRO's "Study to facilitate the implementation of certain waste related provisions of the Regulation on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)"