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Heavy metals in waste

The presence of heavy metals in waste as a result of their uses in modern society is matter of ever-growing concern to both politicians, authorities and the public in the 15 Member States of the European Union.

The strategy for minimisation of the effects of heavy metals in waste is partly to reduce today and future environmental and human exposure to the heave metals in the waste, partly to reduce the content of heavy metals in products marketed.

In the Member States of the European Union, the treatment of waste is regulated by a number of directives, which define the scope and stipulate general rules for the treatment of waste containing heavy metals. In the aim of increasing the recycling of materials, among these heavy metals, regulation of the treatment of composite waste products as electronics, vehicles and batteries has been put into force (or are at the stage of proposal). A number of directives today regulate the content of the heavy metals cadmium, mercury and lead in marketed products in order to reduce their use.

Among Member States, there are significant differences in attitude as to the necessity of further reduction of the content of heavy metals in products and waste.