WS3 Sustainable Recycling Industries: Legacy substances in WEEE-plastic. Current status and policy lessons for a transition to circular economies.


· Workshop Organiser: Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI)

· Workshop Chair: Mathias Schluep

· Date and Time: Monday 12, 12h30 – 14h20 

· Room: Seehorn

· Description: 

Many substances that have once been deemed safe to use and were used liberally in products have now become legacy substances: Their use has been restricted, yet they are still present in the current material stock. The presence of these substances in waste complicates the move towards more circular economies. Increasing recycling rates have to be weighed against health and safety considerations. This conflict has recently led to considerable debate in countries of the global north. In the global south, legacy substances are even more problematic. With often missing compliance to both use and recycling restrictions, legacy substances are still entering the material stock and are rarely removed.

In this workshop, we will explore these issues using the example of plastic from waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE). WEEE-plastic often contains legacy substances such as certain brominated flame retardants and heavy metals used as additives. The workshop will be separated into two discussion session.

In the first session we look at the current situation of WEEE-plastics in countries of the global south and Switzerland. We will compare the different cases based on the current state of legislation and actual practice of WEEE-plastic handling. Facilitated by presentations and local experts of the countries, we will devise recommendations how countries the current situation can be improved.

The second session looks in detail at the legislation and guidelines governing legacy substances in (WEEE)-plastics. Through introductory presentations, an overview over various international and national examples will be given. A special focus will examine the “tools” and principles currently employed by legislators to control the flow of legacy substances. With this overview on potential tools and principles, we discuss if and how they are currently working together and how simple yet effective approaches could look like.

· Structure and Speakers:

The workshop will include short introductory speeches, possibly including: Presentation
Matthias Schluep / WRF
– Michael Gasser / Empa
Heinz Böni / Empa
– Implementation partners from the SRI countries Ghana, Egypt, Peru, Colombia and India.
– Jürg de Pietro / KATZ (Kunststoff Ausbildung und Technologiezentrum Schweiz): Presentation
– Roland Weber, Expert on BFRs
– More potential speakers are being identified at the moment.

Following the introductory speeches, several breakout and plenary sessions including a wrap up will be facilitated. The Workshop will last for a total of 2 hours on Oct 11.

· Expected Outcomes:

– A comparative report on the current handling of WEEE-plastic in the SRI countries and Switzerland, containing recommendations on how the countries shall proceed further.
– A recommendation on how to handle legacy substances in plastics in a circular economy based on the experience in WEEE-plastics.