What are POPs?
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are a group of harmful, synthetic chemicals that pose a significant threat to the environment and human health. POPs can linger in the environment for decades and can be found in various products used in our daily lives such as some electronic items and in industrial, and municipal waste. They can also cause serious damage including contaminating water sources, harming wildlife, and disrupting the balance of ecosystems.
How can POPS impact the environment?
They can enter the environment through manufacturing processes, waste disposal, and other means.
What Regulatory changes have been implemented?
The initial Stockholm Treatment is a global treaty aimed at eliminating or reducing the production, use, and release of Pops into the environment.
It identifies 12 POP’S ‘The Dirty Dozen’ which now have new restrictions placed on their production and disposal.
These include: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzen, mirex, polychlorinated biphenyls, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans, and toxaphen.
This new legislation from the Environment Agency states that items containing POPs cannot be safely disposed of in general waste or in landfill sites. This now means that all items containing POPs should be treated as a separate waste stream and sent for incineration.
Recycling methods for POP – containing waste
Recycling is an essential component in reducing the impact of POPs on the environment. When it comes to disposing of items that may contain POPs, such as electronics or certain plastics, it’s important to utilise proper recycling methods.
Many municipalities offer specialised recycling programs for these types of materials. By properly recycling POP-containing waste, we can prevent these harmful chemicals from leaching into the environment and contribute to a more sustainable future.
How can changes to legislation impact waste companies?
Waste classification and management – As certain materials may need to be reclassified, recycling facilities and waste management companies may need to implement stricter protocols to handle and process these materials safely.
Recycling restrictions – Recycling companies may need to find alternative methods for managing and treating items including POPS.
E-Waste management – Electronic waste containing POPS might require more stringent disposal controls to prevent the release of pollutants into the environment.
Incineration and combustion – POPS are often resistant to the combustion process and can be released into the air during incineration, regulatory changes may lead to stricter emission limits for facilities that incinerate waste. This may impact the waste–to–energy initiatives and affect waste management strategies that rely on incineration.
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Here’s another great article for further reading.