Member States agree to reduce persistent organic pollutants in waste

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Environment ministers endorsed the Council’s mandate to negotiate an agreement with the European Parliament on a regulation that aims to further restrict the presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in waste. The negotiating mandate was formally approved by the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) on Friday 11 March.

Persistent organic pollutants are chemicals that are particularly harmful to the environment and human health. To secure the progress towards an increasingly circular economy, and to ensure the quality of secondary raw materials, it is crucial that waste does not contain persistent organic pollutants.

Barbara Pompili – Minister for the Ecological Transition

The proposal put forward by the Commission modifies annexes IV and V of the POPs regulation by introducing new substances on the list of substances to be restricted in waste, notably perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts and related compounds – found in waterproof textiles and fire-fighting foams. This substance is toxic for reproduction and carcinogenic.

The proposal also covers updates to the concentration limit values for some substances on the list.

The Council’s amendments to the Commission proposal mainly involve the limit values for dioxins and furans (PCDDs/PCDFs). Dioxins and furans are not produced or added to materials intentionally but are present as impurities in certain ashes.

The Council set the limit value for dioxins and furans at 10 μg/kg and postponed the date of application of the limit value for these substances in domestic ashes and soot to 1 January 2025, in order to align the entry into force of this value with the entry into force of separate household waste collection requirements foreseen in the EU waste framework directive.

The Council’s amendments aim to facilitate the implementation of the new limit values. In particular, they will allow member states’ authorities to carry out further studies and research in order to establish what steps need to be taken in order to implement the regulation effectively.

Background and next steps

The proposed regulation aims to bring the EU’s legislation into line with its international commitments, particularly under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. To achieve this, it will add some substances to annex IV of the POPs regulation (Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on persistent organic pollutants) and update the concentration limit values for some substances in annexes IV and V of that regulation.

The Commission submitted the proposal to the European Parliament and to the Council on 28 October 2021. The Council’s mandate will serve as a basis for the negotiations with the European Parliament to reach a final agreement on the future legislation. Once a provisional political agreement is found between the two institutions, a formal adoption procedure will seal the agreement into legislation.