27 Jul Toxic Chemicals in Electronic Plastic Waste Are Hurting the Circular Economy
The average consumer probably thinks that recycling plastic is a direct, simple way to benefit the circular economy and reduce waste. Unlike paper and glass, plastics tend to keep their shape and stand up to heavy use. However, findings in a new report have created new obstacles for electronics recycling.
According to the report, released by UK-based charity CHEMTrust, Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) are appearing in an increasing amount of electronics as traditional metal components are being replaced with more affordable plastic parts. BFRs have developmental neurotoxic properties, and acute exposure can cause many serious health problems. These issues include impaired physical development, a lower IQ, decreased motor coordination, and a worsening memory.
BFRs are already banned in most of Europe, but they are showing up frequently in electronics imported from countries like China. Recycling policies and regulations are less strict in these countries. Plastics that contain BFRs that are present in electronics are currently being recycled and finding their way into children’s toys, which poses a serious risk for the health of our youth. Obviously, companies must act accordingly and comply with stricter recycling regulations to get these chemicals out of plastics for good.
However, these further regulations will cause strain on the circular economy. Increased regulations will raise the cost of electronics recycling and make recycling less attractive for electronics companies from a financial standpoint. Companies that depend on recycled plastic materials to create their own products will also experience several setbacks, as the materials at their disposal will be strictly limited. “Whereas steel is just steel, plastic is not just plastic,” noted former CEO of Repic Philip Morton. “There are a number of different grades and additives that should be on everyone’s radar.” Morton added that, as more plastics are added to the “do not use” list, recycling for the plastics and electronics industries would become more difficult.
For some electronics companies the desire to benefit the circular economy may seem at odds with the rising cost of recycling. Instead of recycling your barely used or unopened electronics, consider donating them through Good360. We match your products to a nonprofit in need so every item goes to a worthy cause.