19 November 2020

Study - brominated flame retardants not hindering WEEE plastics recycling

Approximately 2.6mln t of WEEE plastics are generated annually in Europe and plastic containing brominated flame retardants represent about 9% of this total.

© Florian Krumm/Unsplash

The International Bromine Council, BSEF, has released a report covering WEEE plastics flows and recycling efforts in Europe. The report, undertaken by consultancy firm SOFIES, addresses the impact of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) on WEEE plastics recycling and presents the challenges in making WEEE plastic streams more circular.

Electronic and electrical equipment uses plastics to make products lighter and cost effective. Plastic components are inherently combustible and need to be protected from ignition. BFRs are often used in plastics to meet fire safety standards.

Currently, around half of all WEEE plastics generated in Europe do not enter official WEEE collection channels, ending up in the waste bin, processed at substandard recycling facilities, or exported outside Europe. On average, 55% of WEEE plastics entering specialised WEEE plastic recycling facilities are effectively recycled, and turned into post-consumer recycled plastics.

Restricted BFRs (e.g. Octa-BDE and Deca-BDE) represent a small and rapidly declining fraction of all BFRs found in WEEE plastic streams reflecting the restriction on the use of these substances for more than a decade (2003 for Octa-BDE, 2008 for Deca-BDE).

The presence of BFRs in WEEE plastics does not reduce recycling yields more than other flame retardants. 

The report contains recommendations for policymakers, electrical and electronic equipment producers and recyclers. Read the report.