EU: Plastic’s toxic chemicals to be recycled into new generations of consumer products

Updated EU regulation allows higher levels of toxic recycling

Strasbourg, 18 April 2019 – Today, the European Parliament approved the recast of the EU Regulation on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) [1]. This update to the regulation on the world’s worst chemicals will in practice allow toxic flame retardants, including DecaBDE, to be recycled into new plastic products, re-entering the market in concentrations far above safe levels and endangering human health and the environment.

The recast of Regulation (EC) No 850/2004 contradicts the EU’s obligations under the Stockholm Convention [2], an international treaty that requires parties to eliminate or restrict the use of persistent organic pollutants — chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods of time and harm human health and the environment. The Convention lists DecaBDE for global elimination, without any recycling exemption. The EU concentration limits [3] pave the way for a massive inflow of DecaBDE from discarded electronics into recycled plastic products, including children’s toys. [4]

While we welcome efforts to move to a circular economy, a toxic chemical does not become less toxic when it is recycled. For the circular economy to be a success, extreme caution must be taken to ensure it does not come at the expense of human health and the environment,” says Giulia Carlini, staff attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), on behalf of Rethink Plastic. “The chemicals listed in the Stockholm Convention are the world’s worst chemicals. DecaBDE is one of them, and we must eliminate it from our products. The updated regulation opens the door to much wider human and environmental contamination by this dangerous pollutant.

Rethink Plastic, an alliance of European NGOs fighting for a future free from plastic pollution, warns that people will be exposed to contamination without being aware, as products containing recycled DecaBDE will not necessarily be labeled disclosing their toxic components and related risks. “This is particularly dangerous as DecaBDE may likely end up in products for children, a population that is especially vulnerable to the toxic impacts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals,” continues Carlini.

Rethink Plastic urges the European Commission to review the concentration limits within the regulation as quickly as possible, and to stop dangerous pollutants from contaminating our products, notably through toxic recycling.



[1] Link to the approved document:

[2] Link to the Stockholm convention:

[3] 500 mg/kg for the sum of the listed PBDEs (tetra-, penta-, hexa-, hepta, and decaBDE) as an unintentional trace contaminant level in mixtures and articles, and 1000 mg/kg for the sum of the listed PBDEs in waste. DecaBDE alone has a 10 mg/kg limit, as well as the other single PBDEs, and Rethink Plastic advocates for a much more protective 50 mg/kg for the sum of listed PBDEs, both in mixtures, articles, and waste.

[4] Toxic recycling is still contaminating EU products, including children’s toys, hair accessories, and kitchen utensils, as shown in the report “Toxic Loophole: Recycling Hazardous Waste into New Products.”


Giulia Carlini, Staff Attorney, CIEL
+41 22 321 47 74 | [email protected]

Marie Mekosh, Communications Associate, CIEL
+001 202 742 5847 | [email protected]

Rethink Plastic