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Plastics that contain hazardous substances: recycle or incinerate?

Plastics met gevaarlijke stoffen: recyclen of verbranden?


Over the last decade interest in the circular economy and therefore in recycling has increased considerably. This interest is prompted by the awareness that natural resources are not unlimited and that the extraction of new resources can cause considerable environmental damage. One of the problems of recycling is that the materials may contain substances that pose a risk to man and the environment. So the possible advantages of recycling, such as more energy-efficient and CO2-efficient production, should be weighed against the potential effects of these substances. This report focuses on a few cases where hazardous substances have been incorporated into potentially recyclable material: the flame- retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) in Styrofoam (extruded polystyrene), and the plasticiser DEHP, cadmium and lead in polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The report outlines the technical background to the recycling of these materials, current practice and the complex legislation on recycling, and it ends with some policy recommendations.

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