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Characterizing plastics from large household appliances: Brominated flame retardants, other additives and density profiles
Resources, Conservation and Recycling  (IF10.204),  Pub Date : 2021-10-14, DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2021.105956
Andreas Bill, Arthur Haarman, Michael Gasser, Heinz Böni, Matthias Rösslein, Patrick A. Wäger

Large household appliances contain substantial amounts of plastics. At their end of life, these appliances are processed in waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) treatment plants where a mixed plastic fraction is generally obtained after mechanical processing. This paper presents the results of a study conducted to investigate whether the practice of recycling these plastic streams without decontamination can be continued after the introduction of the 1000 mg/kg threshold value for the sum of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the 2019 recast of the European POP regulation. 25 samples of shredded mixed plastics from large household appliances were collected and analysed by two independent chemical laboratories with regard to various Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs), heavy metals and tracers of common plastic additives. Results show that the currently applicable threshold values for recycling regarding heavy metals and BFRs are not exceeded in any of the analysed samples. However, relevant amounts of PBDEs (up to 791 mg/kg), tetrabromobisphenol-A (up to 1470 mg/kg) and antimony (up to 1200 mg/kg) were detected, all of which are currently under consideration for more stringent regulation in the EU. Results further show that due to limitations in analytical precision and representative sampling, the quantification of legacy substances in mixed WEEE plastic fractions is very challenging and the level of confidence with which decisions regarding legal compliance for recycling are taken is limited. It is strongly recommended that these challenges are taken into account when new threshold values are defined in order to enable a clean circular economy.