Skip to main content
Environment

Waste containing POPs

EU rules on waste containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs) aims to protect human health and the environment.

PCBs PCTs image
© The-Tor / Getty Images

Overview

Waste containing POPs can be especially harmful to the environment and to human health. When disposing of waste containing POPs above certain concentration limits, the POP content must be destroyed or irreversibly transformed so that it is no longer harmful.

Background

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are a group of organic compounds that have toxic properties, persist in the environment, accumulate in food chains and pose a risk to human health and the environment. Because of their persistence, these chemicals have the potential to be transported across international boundaries far from their source - through air, water and migratory species.

POPs include pesticides such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls and terphenyls (PCBs/PCTs), and unintentional by-products of industrial processes, for example dioxins and furans. The EU has developed specific rules to deal with some of these chemical waste streams.

In order to address the risks posed by POPs, the international community came together to conclude several agreements to reduce and eliminate these substances. The Stockholm Convention on POPs was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004. It aims to protect human health and the environment from POPs. It promotes global action on these substances and requires Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.

In addition, under the Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal, parties have to ensure that waste - including hazardous waste - is managed in an environmentally sound way.

Find out more about POPs and EU chemicals policy.

Objectives

Waste containing POP substances must be managed in an environmentally sound way. It must minimise emissions of POPs to air, water and soil – with the ultimate aim of eliminating these emissions. When disposing of waste containing POPs above certain concentration limits, the POP content must be destroyed or irreversibly transformed.

Law

The European Union adopted the POPs Regulation to uphold the aims of the Stockholm Convention and the UNECE Protocol on POPs.

Implementation

The European Commission is currently working to amend Annexes IV and V of the POPs Regulation. More information about the process leading to a Commission proposal can be found here.

More information on the project carried out to support the Impact Assessment can be found on the project webpage.

Timeline

Key dates related to EU rules on waste containing POPs

  1. 15 July 2019
    New Regulation on POPs enters into force, replacing the 2004 Regulation
  2. 20 May 2004
    Regulation on POPs enters into force

Contact

For any questions concerning the Waste Framework Directive, please contact our functional mailbox.