Circular economy: MEPs want to reduce harmful chemicals in waste

  • Stricter limits for persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
  • POPs should be removed from recycling chains
  • New chemicals to be added to list of harmful substances

In order to create a toxic-free environment and a truly circular economy, MEPs want stricter limits on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in waste.

Following a on Monday, Parliament on Tuesday adopted its negotiating position for new rules on persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and the management of waste containing them, with 506 votes in favour, 68 against and 49 abstentions.

As POPs do not disappear quickly and stay in the environment for a long time, they pose a threat to it and to human health all over the globe. In order to protect the circular lifespan of products, materials containing levels of POPs that are too high must be destroyed or incinerated and cannot be recycled, according to Parliament.

While MEPs recognise that the Commission’s proposal is going in the right direction, they want to introduce significantly lower permitted levels of POPs in products. This would align the POPs Regulation better with the EU Green Deal’s goals – especially the ambition for a toxic-free environment and a truly circular economy.

Stricter limits for POPs

MEPs want to reduce limits on a group of brominated flame retardants from the 500 milligrams per kilogram proposed by the Commission to 200 mg/kg. MEPs also want limits on perfluorooctanoic acid, found for example in waterproof textiles and fire-fighting foams, to be lowered to 20 mg/kg from the Commission’s proposed 40 mg/kg. MEPs say that the regulation must also cover the synthetic chemical compound perfluorohexanesulfonic acid in order to anticipate them being included in a list of harmful substances by the Stockholm Convention COP-10, scheduled to take place in June 2022.


Rapporteur Martin Hojsík (Renew, SK), said: “We cannot tolerate the presence of persistent organic pollutants in materials and waste, otherwise there will be no circular economy in the EU and no sustainable textiles, but an economy of toxic recycled products. Parliament’s position is a step towards cleaning it from POPs such as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) or dioxines. It will help EU companies to be more sustainable and to ensure citizens can trust in recycled products.”

Next steps

Parliament is now ready to start negotiations with member states on the final shape of the legislation.


The Commission presented its proposal to review the Annexes IV and V of the 2019 regulation on POPs on 28 October 2021 to ensure they are aligned with the international obligations, particularly the Stockholm Convention whose main goal is “to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants”.