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Substances of very high concern and the transition to a circular economy : An initial inventory


Reuse and recycling of products are key elements in a circular economy. This exploratory RIVM study shows that a great number of waste streams may contain various substances of very high concern (ZZS), which may hamper safe recycling options in the Netherlands. RIVM recommends an adequate risk management of ZZS in a circular economy.

The Dutch government takes priority action on ZZS substances as they are hazardous to people and the environment. Examples include substances that are carcinogenic, impede reproduction, or bioaccumulate in food chains. ZZS may be present in waste streams as they are intentionally used in the original processes or products, or they can be contaminants.

The Dutch governmental program 'The Netherlands circular in 2050' appoints five priority chains and sectors in the transition towards a circular economy: biomass and food, plastics, production/manufacturing, construction, and consumer products. RIVM investigated to what extent dominant waste streams in these chains and sectors contain ZZS.

It is difficult to get a complete overview of ZZS in waste streams, because information is often lacking on the actual ZZS concentrations in waste. This exploratory study, however, clearly demonstrates that various ZZS can be present in each of the investigated waste streams. Examples are flame-retardants in plastics, dyestuffs and pigments in textile, and heavy metals in agricultural waste streams.

RIVM makes recommendations with respect to prioritization of ZZS and waste streams. In addition, it is advised to develop a decision scheme to select the most appropriate waste treatment options. The results of this study are useful for the implementation of the National Waste Management Plan (LAP) that is focusing on risk control. At medium and long term the drive should be to develop safer alternatives for ZZS resulting in safe loops, irrespective of the types of end-use.

To reference/ cite  this report use:  DOI 10.21945/RIVM-2017-0071

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