Dirty recycling taints plastic children’s toys with toxic chemicals from E-waste

  • April 21, 2017

QUEZON CITY, April 21 -- A new global survey finds that recycling plastics containing toxic flame retardant chemicals found in electronic waste results in contamination of the world’s best-selling toy along with other children’s products. 

Ironically, the chemical contaminants can damage the nervous system and reduce intellectual capacity but are found in mostly imitation Rubik’s Cubes – a puzzle toy designed to exercise the mind.

The study was performed by IPEN (a global civil society network) and Arnika (an environmental organization in the Czech Republic) in cooperation with partner groups from 26 countries, including the EcoWaste Coalition from the Philippines.

The toxic chemicals Octabromodiphenyl ether (OctaBDE), Decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE), and Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) are used in the plastic casings of electronic products and if they are not removed, they are carried into new products when the plastic is recycled. 

The study was released just a few days before the eight Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the Stockholm Convention will decide whether to continue allowing the recycling of materials containing OctaBDE and possibly make a new recycling exemption for DecaBDE. The treaty’s expert committee has warned against the practice.

According to the study,  90 percent of the samples contained OctaBDE or DecaBDE, and 43 percent contained HBCD. These chemicals are persistent and known to harm the reproductive system and disrupt hormone systems, adversely impacting intelligence, attention, learning and memory.

“Materials containing toxic flame retardant chemicals such as OctaBDE and DecaBDE should not be ‘recycled’ into children’s toys,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

At a meeting with the Environmental Management Bureau and other stakeholders last Tuesday, April 18, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the Philippine delegation to push for the end of toxic recycling exemption for brominated diphenyl ethers in the Stockholm Convention.

“Recycling materials that contain toxic chemicals contaminates new products, continues exposure, and undermines the credibility of recycling," said Pam Miller, IPEN Co-chair. “Governments should end this harmful loophole.”

Another critical decision of the Stockholm Convention Conference will be to establish hazardous waste limits. Protective hazardous waste limits would make wastes subject to the treaty’s obligations for destruction – and not permit their recycling. Surprisingly, some of the toxic chemical levels in children’s products in this study exceeded proposed hazardous waste limits.

“We need protective hazardous waste limits,” said Jitka Strakova, Arnika. “Weak standards mean toxic products and dirty recycling, which often takes place in low and middle-income countries and spreads poisons from recycling sites into our homes and bodies. “

The application of strict hazardous limits is also critical for brominated flame retardants due to their presence in e-waste. 

In many countries, the Stockholm Convention standards will be the only global regulatory tool that can be used to prevent import and export of these contaminated wastes, in many cases from countries with stricter legislation to countries with weaker legislation or control. (EcoWaste)


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