Flame Retardants Cause WEEE Debate amid Mixed Market Conditions

As the revision of the EU’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive draws near, the issue of flame retardants in plastics recovered from WEEE has caused debate, while markets for recyclates are struggling in the U.S., China and India.
Speaking at the Bureau of International Recycling’s (BIR) Plastics Round-Table in Munich, Rainer Koehnlechner, owner and managing director of separation specialist Hamos GmbH of Germany, argued that it is possible to derive high-purity polymers from mixed WEEE plastics.
To make his point, Koehnlechner gave the example, sink/float technology incorporating a special salt solution suitable for subsequent electrostatic separation. Accorrding to the entrepeneur, his company has been able to separate out ABS, polypropylene and polystyrene at purity levels of more than 98.5%.

The company’s Wersag facility near Dresden has been achieving production rates of more than 2 tonnes per hour. However, he also emphasised that there are no flame retardants in these end products. In contrast, another guest speaker, Tilman Baehr from the Hamburg Ministry of Urban Development and Environment in Germany, identified brominated flame retardants as a problem component of WEEE derived plastics scrap, adding that no binding thresholds had been set for them.  Having confirmed that the revision of the EU’s WEEE Directive was “close to the finishing line,” having reached the second reading stage in the European Parliament, Baehr suggested that better sorting of the waste at the point of origin would lead to fewer restrictions down the line.


In a brief round of market reports, Gregory Cardot of Veolia Propreté in France noted a slight drop-off in activity levels since mid-October within his domestic secondary plastics market. Meanwhile, in China there had been significant problems at ports and the market was “under pressure”, he said.
BIR Plastics Committee chairman Surendra Borad of Gemini Corporation NV in Belgium again used the term “under pressure”, to describe prices in the U.S. As for the market in India, he said, this was “absolutely dormant” as many company licences to import plastics scrap had not been renewed.
However, according to Borad India’s domestic recycling industry “is doing extremely well”, and is claimed to have achieved a recycling rate of 47%, he added. Although the overall economic outlook was not too positive at present, Borad went on to predict “a golden future” for the rapidly xpanding recycling sector. In an extrapolation of available data, he arrived at the conclusion that the global recycling industry is worth upwards of $500 billion per year, and employs as many as 20 million people around the world. The industry “is growing at a tremendous rate that is faster than (world) GDP”, he concluded.  Source : Waste Management Word

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