Eliminating harmful chemicals: EU Commission welcomes political agreement reached on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in waste


The European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement last night on the Commission proposal to introduce stricter limits for some of the most harmful chemicals in waste – Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). POPs show toxic properties and remain in the environment for a very long time, accumulate in food chains and can harm human health and nature. Although POPs are generally no longer used in new products, they can still be found in waste coming from some consumer products such as waterproof textiles, furniture, plastics and electronic equipment. The agreement paves the way to setting stringent limits for these chemicals in waste, preventing them from re-entering the economy through recycled materials. Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Last night, June 20, 2022, the EU took a decisive step towards protecting our health and environment from persistent organic pollutants chemicals in waste. We are delivering on our promise to eradicate the most harmful chemicals from our daily lives. Ambitious limits for these substances are also needed to foster high-quality, toxic-free secondary materials that can be safely used in a growing circular economy.”

Existing limits have been tightened for five substances and new limits have been agreed for four new substances that can be found for example in waterproof textiles and fire-fighting foams, in treated wood and others.

An agreement was reached to include also a new substance – Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), which was listed less than 2 weeks ago as a POP substance in the Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention. This swift action sends an extremely powerful message about the diligence and commitment of the EU to deal with POPs in waste, and to lead the way toward a toxic-free environment internationally.  The proposal is an important step in achieving a more circular economy as announced under the Circular Economy Action Plan. It contributes to the European Green Deal’s Zero Pollution Action Plan and to the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability with its associated action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), often dubbed ‘forever chemicals’. More information is in the news item.