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EU looks to reduce hazardous household waste

Environment Daily 1275, 29/08/02
A new report for the European Commission's environment department has recommended EU-wide introduction of separate collection and treatment for several items of household refuse deemed hazardous when left in the municipal solid waste stream.

Paints and varnishes, low-energy and fluorescent lightbulbs, arsenic-treated wood, car oil filters, garden pesticides and fertilisers are listed as products of "significant hazardous potential" that should be taken out of the waste stream at source. Cleaning and polishing products and chromium-treated leather articles are also singled out as items of concern.

The average cost of collection and treatment would be likely to range between EUR1-2 per kilogram of waste, leading to annual costs of EUR1.5-3bn to collect all the EU's hazardous household waste, the report's authors calculate. The benefits of the exercise are not estimated.

The report has been prepared for the environment directorate by consultants WRc and Ifeu. Its conclusions could reignite dormant Commission plans for a framework initiative on the separate collection of hazardous household wastes. Work on this began in 1997 but was dropped in favour of parallel efforts to tackle specific waste streams
- namely waste oils, batteries and electrical and electronic equipment.

The new study was commissioned to plug a knowledge gap on other possible sources of hazardous contamination of household waste, concentrating on 14 priority chemicals. Other products of concern are
pharmaceuticals, ink cartridges and home construction waste.

Hazardous household waste represents only around 1% of domestic waste, the authors estimate. The most reliable data come from Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, where up to 70% of such waste is collected separately.

The 14 substances looked at in the report are: arsenic, lead,cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, mercury, zinc, PCBs, benzene, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, tetrachloromethane and sodium cyanide.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Environment Daily.


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