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Circular economy:
opportunities and challenges
(don’t mess it up)
Dr A. Michael Warhurst
Executive Director, CHEM Trust
Helsinki Chemicals Forum
26th May 2016
About CHEM Trust
• A charity working at UK, EU
& Global levels to protect
humans & wildlife from
harmful chemicals
• Working with scientists,
technical processes and
decision makers, in
partnership with other civil
society groups
• Focus on identification of,
and action on, endocrine
disrupting chemicals
• See blog for more:
www.chemtrust.org.uk
Circular Economy & Chemicals
• Many restricted chemicals are present in
products in our homes and offices
– From furniture to electrical goods
• New restrictions arrive all the time
– There will be more restrictions in the future
– Science moves on and ignorance reduces
• High potential for disruption and scandals
– Some examples…
1) Bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal paper
• Found to be Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC) in 1938 [1]
– Widely used in polycarbonate plastics, food can linings and thermal
paper (e.g. till receipts)
• EU Chemical Agency Risk Assessment Committee has
concluded risk from BPA in till receipts not ‘adequately
controlled’ [2]
– Socioeconomic assessment found replacement affordable, but
caution needed to avoid problematic substitutes
• Problem for circular economy:
– Recycled paper & card (e.g. pizza boxes) contaminated with BPA
• Solution:
– Stop recycling thermal paper? Too complex
– Better to focus on getting a ban through as fast as possible
2) Chemicals in food contact materials
• No harmonised EU regulations on chemicals in
food contact paper, card, ink, glues, coatings
– NB: Plastic recycling processes approved by EFSA
• Problem: Paper & card recycling virtually
unregulated
– BPA, phthalates and perfluorocarbons found in
pizza boxes in Denmark [3]
– Big risk to public confidence in circular
economy
– Inconsistent that EU law obliges recycling of
packaging, but does not address chemical use
• Solution: Harmonise EU food contact regulation,
including recycling processes. Briefing:
– http://www.chemtrust.org.uk/foodcontact/
3) Sewage sludge to crop land
• Full circular economy = sewage sludge to crop land
• Problem:
– Contaminated by many substances, including persistent
industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides [4]
• Solutions: Challenging, need to start somewhere:
– Make a higher priority when assessing/restricting chemicals
– Chemical analysis: broad spectrum & effects-driven analysis
to prioritise action on problem chemicals
– Develop “strategic approach to pollution of water by
pharmaceutical substances”, due by Sep 2015, according to
Priority Substances Directive 2013:
• See also our report on pharmaceuticals & environment [5]
4) Furniture as POPs reservoir
• Problems
– Furniture a major – under-investigated – reservoir of banned
substances, e.g. brominated flame retardants, inc. POPs [6]
– Furniture is usually used for years, increasing the chance
that by the time it enters the waste stream it may contain
banned chemicals
– Furniture (and carpets etc) contribute to contamination of
indoor air and dust with hazardous chemicals
– Furniture is already problematic for recycling
• Solutions
– Rapid action to remove problem chemicals from products, by
regulators & industry
– Investigation of more comprehensive regulatory solutions
5) Slow chemical assessment & action
• Problem:
– Continued delays in identifying & restricting use of chemicals
of concern means they keep being added to articles
• e.g. >10y of debate on restrictions on Deca BDE & PFOA
• Solutions
– Identification, assessment & controls need to be faster
– Assessments need to be more precautionary
• Assuming a circular economy
• Assuming currently estimated toxicity (what we really assess, not
true toxicity) is likely to get worse with time (eg. see [7])
• Assuming reality of exposure to mixtures.
– Manufacturers should take a forward-looking approach
• Use lists like the ChemSec’s ‘SIN’ list & SINmilarity tool [8]
6) Recycling hazardous materials
• Problems:
– Recycling of contaminated materials perpetuates the use of hazardous
chemicals
– Three destinations for a waste containing hazardous chemicals:
• (1) Landfill or (2) Incineration
• (3) Our homes, workplace and living environment
– Shouldn’t assume recycling always best option when waste contains
hazardous chemicals
– Once ‘not waste’, may end up anywhere – e.g. plastic pipes being used as a
toy in a kindergarten
• Major risk of scandal, loss of confidence in recycled products
• Solutions:
– Balance value of resource vs concern re hazard
– Don’t recycle some materials if not possible to remove the hazardous
chemicals.
Recommendations
1. A move to non-toxic products, thus
removing problems in recycling
2. Faster, more precautionary, safety
assessment of chemicals, assuming a
circular economy.
3. Fill regulatory holes, e.g. food contact
materials (major reputational risk)
4. Better information flow on hazardous
materials in products, and controls on
chemicals in imported products
5. Some materials should not be recycled
See briefing:
http://www.chemtrust.org.uk/circulareconomy
References
[1] Dodds, E. C.; Lawson, W., “Molecular structure in relation to estrogenic activity. Compounds without a
phenanthrene nucleus”. Proc. Royal Soc. Lon. B. 1938, 125, 222- 232.
[2] EU Chemical Agency committee agrees that Bisphenol A in receipts poses risk to workers, Jun 2015:
http://www.chemtrust.org.uk/eu-chemical-agency-committee-agrees-that-bisphenol-a-in-receipts-poses-risk-
to-workers/
[3] Test: Unwanted chemicals found in pizza boxes, Danish Consumer Council, 19th Oct 2015
http://kemi.taenk.dk/bliv-groennere/test-unwanted-chemicals-found-pizza-boxes
[4] Venkatesan, A. K., & Halden, R. U. (2014). Wastewater treatment plants as chemical observatories to
forecast ecological and human health risks of manmade chemicals. Sci Rep, 4, 3731.
[5] Pharmaceuticals in the environment: A growing threat to our tap water and wildlife, CHEM Trust, Dec 2014
http://www.chemtrust.org.uk/medicines-in-the-environment-a-growing-threat-to-wildlife-and-drinking-water/
[6] Stubbings, W. A., & Harrad, S. (2014). Extent and mechanisms of brominated flame retardant emissions
from waste soft furnishings and fabrics: A critical review. Environment International, 71, 164-175
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412014001822
[7] Late Lessons from Early Warnings II, European Environment Agency, 2013
http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/late-lessons-2
[8] ChemSec ‘Substitute it Now’ list and Sinmirality Tools:
http://www.chemsec.org/what-we-do/sin-list/sinimilarity http://www.chemsec.org/what-we-do/sin-list

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HCF 2016: Michael Warhurst

  • 1. Circular economy: opportunities and challenges (don’t mess it up) Dr A. Michael Warhurst Executive Director, CHEM Trust Helsinki Chemicals Forum 26th May 2016
  • 2. About CHEM Trust • A charity working at UK, EU & Global levels to protect humans & wildlife from harmful chemicals • Working with scientists, technical processes and decision makers, in partnership with other civil society groups • Focus on identification of, and action on, endocrine disrupting chemicals • See blog for more: www.chemtrust.org.uk
  • 3. Circular Economy & Chemicals • Many restricted chemicals are present in products in our homes and offices – From furniture to electrical goods • New restrictions arrive all the time – There will be more restrictions in the future – Science moves on and ignorance reduces • High potential for disruption and scandals – Some examples…
  • 4. 1) Bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal paper • Found to be Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC) in 1938 [1] – Widely used in polycarbonate plastics, food can linings and thermal paper (e.g. till receipts) • EU Chemical Agency Risk Assessment Committee has concluded risk from BPA in till receipts not ‘adequately controlled’ [2] – Socioeconomic assessment found replacement affordable, but caution needed to avoid problematic substitutes • Problem for circular economy: – Recycled paper & card (e.g. pizza boxes) contaminated with BPA • Solution: – Stop recycling thermal paper? Too complex – Better to focus on getting a ban through as fast as possible
  • 5. 2) Chemicals in food contact materials • No harmonised EU regulations on chemicals in food contact paper, card, ink, glues, coatings – NB: Plastic recycling processes approved by EFSA • Problem: Paper & card recycling virtually unregulated – BPA, phthalates and perfluorocarbons found in pizza boxes in Denmark [3] – Big risk to public confidence in circular economy – Inconsistent that EU law obliges recycling of packaging, but does not address chemical use • Solution: Harmonise EU food contact regulation, including recycling processes. Briefing: – http://www.chemtrust.org.uk/foodcontact/
  • 6. 3) Sewage sludge to crop land • Full circular economy = sewage sludge to crop land • Problem: – Contaminated by many substances, including persistent industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides [4] • Solutions: Challenging, need to start somewhere: – Make a higher priority when assessing/restricting chemicals – Chemical analysis: broad spectrum & effects-driven analysis to prioritise action on problem chemicals – Develop “strategic approach to pollution of water by pharmaceutical substances”, due by Sep 2015, according to Priority Substances Directive 2013: • See also our report on pharmaceuticals & environment [5]
  • 7. 4) Furniture as POPs reservoir • Problems – Furniture a major – under-investigated – reservoir of banned substances, e.g. brominated flame retardants, inc. POPs [6] – Furniture is usually used for years, increasing the chance that by the time it enters the waste stream it may contain banned chemicals – Furniture (and carpets etc) contribute to contamination of indoor air and dust with hazardous chemicals – Furniture is already problematic for recycling • Solutions – Rapid action to remove problem chemicals from products, by regulators & industry – Investigation of more comprehensive regulatory solutions
  • 8. 5) Slow chemical assessment & action • Problem: – Continued delays in identifying & restricting use of chemicals of concern means they keep being added to articles • e.g. >10y of debate on restrictions on Deca BDE & PFOA • Solutions – Identification, assessment & controls need to be faster – Assessments need to be more precautionary • Assuming a circular economy • Assuming currently estimated toxicity (what we really assess, not true toxicity) is likely to get worse with time (eg. see [7]) • Assuming reality of exposure to mixtures. – Manufacturers should take a forward-looking approach • Use lists like the ChemSec’s ‘SIN’ list & SINmilarity tool [8]
  • 9. 6) Recycling hazardous materials • Problems: – Recycling of contaminated materials perpetuates the use of hazardous chemicals – Three destinations for a waste containing hazardous chemicals: • (1) Landfill or (2) Incineration • (3) Our homes, workplace and living environment – Shouldn’t assume recycling always best option when waste contains hazardous chemicals – Once ‘not waste’, may end up anywhere – e.g. plastic pipes being used as a toy in a kindergarten • Major risk of scandal, loss of confidence in recycled products • Solutions: – Balance value of resource vs concern re hazard – Don’t recycle some materials if not possible to remove the hazardous chemicals.
  • 10. Recommendations 1. A move to non-toxic products, thus removing problems in recycling 2. Faster, more precautionary, safety assessment of chemicals, assuming a circular economy. 3. Fill regulatory holes, e.g. food contact materials (major reputational risk) 4. Better information flow on hazardous materials in products, and controls on chemicals in imported products 5. Some materials should not be recycled See briefing: http://www.chemtrust.org.uk/circulareconomy
  • 11. References [1] Dodds, E. C.; Lawson, W., “Molecular structure in relation to estrogenic activity. Compounds without a phenanthrene nucleus”. Proc. Royal Soc. Lon. B. 1938, 125, 222- 232. [2] EU Chemical Agency committee agrees that Bisphenol A in receipts poses risk to workers, Jun 2015: http://www.chemtrust.org.uk/eu-chemical-agency-committee-agrees-that-bisphenol-a-in-receipts-poses-risk- to-workers/ [3] Test: Unwanted chemicals found in pizza boxes, Danish Consumer Council, 19th Oct 2015 http://kemi.taenk.dk/bliv-groennere/test-unwanted-chemicals-found-pizza-boxes [4] Venkatesan, A. K., & Halden, R. U. (2014). Wastewater treatment plants as chemical observatories to forecast ecological and human health risks of manmade chemicals. Sci Rep, 4, 3731. [5] Pharmaceuticals in the environment: A growing threat to our tap water and wildlife, CHEM Trust, Dec 2014 http://www.chemtrust.org.uk/medicines-in-the-environment-a-growing-threat-to-wildlife-and-drinking-water/ [6] Stubbings, W. A., & Harrad, S. (2014). Extent and mechanisms of brominated flame retardant emissions from waste soft furnishings and fabrics: A critical review. Environment International, 71, 164-175 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412014001822 [7] Late Lessons from Early Warnings II, European Environment Agency, 2013 http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/late-lessons-2 [8] ChemSec ‘Substitute it Now’ list and Sinmirality Tools: http://www.chemsec.org/what-we-do/sin-list/sinimilarity http://www.chemsec.org/what-we-do/sin-list