WEEE plastic sorting for bromine content is essential to enforce EU regulation

Abstract : The plastics of waste of electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) are improved for fire safety by flame retardants, and particularly brominated flame retardants (BFR). As waste, the management of these plastic fractions must cope with the update of the regulation of waste hazard classification (2014), the publication of a technical standard on management of WEEE (2015), and a restriction of use for decabromodiphenylether in the product regulation (2017). Data of bromine and BFR concentrations in plastics from electric and electronic equipment (EEE) (n = 347 for Br analysis, n = 33 for BFR analysis, 2009 – 2013), and from WEEE processing facilities before and after sorting for bromine in four sites in France (n = 33 in 2014 and n = 32 in 2015) have been studied for chemical composition and for regulatory classification. After shredding, the lines sort for total bromine content (under or above 2000 mg/kg) in small household appliances (SHA), cathode ray tubes (CRT) and flat screens by X-ray fluorescence. In products, some items have no bromine (52/347 = 15%), while many items have at least one part with bromine (158/347 = 46%), and a large part of items have all parts brominated (137/347 = 39%). The most frequently brominated items are large household appliances, toys and tools (> 70% of brominated items). The bromine concentration of plastics is very heterogeneous (between items, and between parts of an item), and bromine is found where in unexpected categories, as observed by other authors in Italy, Australia, Austria, Czech Republic and UK. Obviously, a global unwanted loop of substances occurs via the international trade of plastic scrap. In waste, the most concentrated BFRs are decaBDE (3000 mg/kg) and tetrabromobisphenol A (8000 mg/kg). The bromine concentration of regulated brominated substances was identified in 2014 and 2015 to be up to 86% of total bromine in “old” waste (SHA, CRT), only 30% – 50% in “younger” waste (Flat screens), and a mean of only 8% in recent products (2009-2013). Regulated substances are a minority of all the brominated substances and the only practical way to sort is to measure on-line total bromine. Unsorted fractions of SHA, CRT and Flat screens have mean bromine concentration > 2000 mg/kg and CRT and Flat screens have decaBDE concentrations above the restriction of use concentration limit (for products) of 1000 mg/kg, and cannot be recycled as such. The sorting reduces the mean bromine concentration in the “Low Br” fraction in all sites, and reduces the decaBDE concentration below the restriction of use concentration limit. The “Low Br” fractions of SHA, CRT and Flat screens comply with all regulatory concentration limits and can be recycled. After sorting, the “High Br” fractions are all regulatory concern. In conclusion, sorting of small household appliances, cathode ray tubes and flat screen plastics is necessary to avoid uncontrolled dispersion of regulated substances in recycled raw material. Other categories (large household appliances, electric and electronic tools, lighting equipment) should also be considered, since their total bromine content (unweighted mean concentration of parts) is high for some of these products.
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Pierre Hennebert. WEEE plastic sorting for bromine content is essential to enforce EU regulation. 16. International Waste Management and Landfill Symposium (Sardinia 2017), Oct 2017, Cagliari, Italy. ⟨ineris-01863254⟩

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