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What are Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP’s) ?


Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP’s) are potentially hazardous organic substances which can impact the environment and human health if they escape. POPs do not break down easily in the environment. Historically they were used in many industrial processes including being used as a plastic additive to slow down degradation or to make items fire retardant; so they could be in the casing, printed circuit board or cable cover or virtually any electrical item. They have been classified as hazardous due to the environmental damage POPs can cause when not treated properly.

How does this link to WEEE recycling?

The flame retardants previously used in the manufacture of WEEE plastics are now identified as POPs, the most common being brominated flame retardants. Whilst these substances were legitimately added to plastics at the point of manufacture, they are now prohibited under the Stockholm Convention which places guidelines on the disposal of waste containing POPs. Waste containing POPs above a certain threshold is required to be disposed of in such a way that the POP is ‘destroyed or irreversibly transformed’ and the negative environmental impact is therefore removed. The Environment Agency have ruled that EEE manufactured after January 2009 is ‘much less likely’ to contain hazardous substances. As a result, EEE can only be reused in the UK if it can be proved it was manufactured after 1 January 2009 and meets all other requirements for reuse. Other WEEE plastics containing POPs cannot be treated in the same way as WEEE plastics which do not contain POPs.  The Hazardous Waste Regulations were amended 2019 to take into account the revised EU Regulation on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).  The new legislation sets tougher controls on chemicals historically used as flame retardants as well as other potentially hazardous substances. The legislation will result in a need for greater sorting and separation of what is now deemed potentially hazardous plastic derived from WEEE. In practice, the new legislation means that some plastics from WEEE which would previously have been recycled, will now be destroyed by incineration. It is anticipated that this could add significant cost to the treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment, as hazardous waste materials are subject to greater regulatory controls than non-hazardous waste and due to more limited treatment options.

This all has the potential to result in increased treatment costs, particularly for small mixed WEEE. This, in turn, could then have a knock-on effect on the cost of WEEE evidence, required to demonstrate compliance under the WEEE Regulations.  The Environment Agency and DEFRA are currently consulting with approved treatment facilities, plastics reprocessors and compliance schemes to outline the expected changes to the legal requirements for WEEE treatment in the UK in light of the presence of POPs in WEEE plastics.

Compounds on the Stockholm Convention list  

Aldrin, an insecticide
Chlordane, an insecticide
Dieldrin, a pesticide
TEndrin, an insecticide  
Heptachlor, a pesticide 
Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) kills fungi
Mirex, insecticide & flame retardant
Toxaphene, an insecticide
Chlordecone, agricultural pesticide
Lindane, a pesticide
Endosulfans are insecticides
Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) is a brominated flame retardant primarily used in thermal insulation in the building industry

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), used as heat exchange fluids, in electrical transformers,  capacitors, as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper, and plastics.
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), insecticide
Dioxins are unintentional by-products of high-temperature processes, typically emitted from the burning of hospital waste, municipal waste, and hazardous waste, along with automobile emissions, peat, coal, and wood.
Polychlorinated dibenzofurans are also by-products of high-temperature processes
α-Hexachlorocyclohexane (α-HCH) and β-Hexachlorocyclohexane (β-HCH) are insecticides as well as by-products in the production of lindane.
Hexabromodiphenyl ether (hexaBDE) and heptabromodiphenyl ether (heptaBDE) are main components of commercial octabromodiphenyl ether (octaBDE).
Pentachlorobenzene (PeCB), is a pesticide and unintentional byproduct used in PCB products, dyestuff carriers, as a fungicide, a flame retardant, and a chemical intermediate
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, are a class of organobromine compounds that are used as flame retardants in a wide  used in a wide array of products, including building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, airplanes, plastics, polyurethane foams,[1] and textiles
Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and its salts are used in the production of fluoropolymers.

Intentional Persistent Organic Pollutants 

Some POPs are made for particular uses - these are known as intentional POPs, for example


(polychlorinated biphenyls) were added in the past to electrical transformers and capacitors, due to their ability to conduct heat. They were used mainly in industry built prior to the mid-1980s with heavy electrical usage. Some PCB-containing electrical equipment may still be in use but will be completely phased out by 2025 under the Stockholm Convention.


  • Pesticides that have been used in agriculture including lindane, dieldrin, DDT and endosulfan.


(per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been used in a range of products including non-stick cookware, waterproof outdoor clothing, fire-fighting foams, food packaging and medical devices.


(brominated flame retardants) are used to treat electrical equipment (e.g. plastics), textiles and furniture, to reduce the risk of fire spreading.

Unintentional Persistent Organic Pollutants 

Some POPs are made for particular uses - these are known as intentional POPs, for example

Some persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are by-products that were produced unintentionally and released to the environment during the burning of fossil fuelor waste,  or during some chemical processes.  -these are known as unintentional POPs, for example:

  • Dioxins and furans are very harmful substances that are created and released into the air when materials such as fossil fuels and waste are burned – even when we burn solid fuels in our homes. Backyard burning of waste is illegal as it can be a significant source of a range of pollutants including dioxins and furans.

The Stockholm Convention’s goal for unintentionally produced POPs is their continuing minimization and, where feasible, ultimate elimination.

POP By-Products currently included in the Stockholm Convention are:

  • hexachlorobenzene (HCB)

  • hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD)

  • polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)

  • polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins

  • polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDF), and PCBs

  • polychlorinated naphthalenes

  • alpha hexachlorocyclohexane

  • beta hexachlorocyclohexane

  • pentachlorobenzene

If you would like more information regarding waste recycling and disposal, please contact our team, who will be able to provide you with additional information and a quote.

You can reach our team by:

Calling us:

Sales, Recycling, WEEE &

Admin Manager; 0121 333 7795

Factory office; 0121 333 3155

Opening hours

Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm

Sending an email;

Recycling, WEEE & Admin Manager


If you have any queries with regards to the impact of POPs on WEEE recycling, please do not hesitate to contact us at or call us 0121 333 3155.


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Give us a call if you have e-waste that needs to be processed. 

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