EU Nations Reject Strict Chemical Waste Regulations, Says Lead MEP
During inter-institutional discussions, EU member states rejected a proposal from MEPs for strict restrictions on one of the most toxic chemicals in the garbage.
"We know we had a problem [with chemical pollution]…but there was no political will to be more ambitious," Slovak liberal MEP Martin Hojsík, one of the lead negotiators on the file, told EUobserver.
To stop harmful chemicals from being recycled into new materials as part of "circular economy" initiatives, EU governments and MEPs agreed late Monday (20 June) on a plan that sets limitations for toxic compounds in the garbage.
It also includes limitations for PFOA, one of the so-called "forever chemicals."
Forever chemicals, also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), got their names because they are thought to be practically indestructible, which caused politicians some trouble after environmental and public health concerns were identified.
Asserting that there is insufficient evidence of contamination to support greater limits, Hojsk claimed that EU member states were "not at all flexible" when setting PFOA limits during the negotiations.
"The situation with PFOA chemicals contamination is higher on the agenda in countries like Belgium or the Netherlands, while in central and eastern Europe nobody knows [about it]," he told EUobserver.
For instance, large concentrations of one of these permanent chemicals (PFOS) have been discovered in the soil and water at a 3M factory close to Antwerp and Zwijndrech in Belgium.
PFOA can be found in packaging made of paper and cardboard, firefighting foam, stain-resistant carpets, and waterproof textiles.
But as part of the Stockholm Convention, the EU promised to end its manufacturing and usage. Additionally, the Reach (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals) law has limited its use within the EU.
One mg/kg of PFOA and 40 mg/kg of PFOA-related chemicals were agreed upon as the upper limits for what constitutes hazardous waste.
"We are delivering on our promise to eradicate the most harmful chemicals from our daily lives," EU commissioner for the environment Virginijus Sinkevičius said in a statement.
To properly employ "toxic-free secondary materials" in Europe's circular economy, he claimed that "ambitious limitations" for these harmful compounds are required.
The insecticide dicofol, the chemical pentachlorophenol, and the substance PFHxS were also added to the EU regulation of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).