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Journal Articles Waste Management Year : 2018

WEEE plastic sorting for bromine essential to enforce EU regulation


The plastics of waste of electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) are improved for fire safety by flame retardants, and particularly brominated flame retardants (BFR). As waste, the management of these plastic fractions must comply with the update of the regulation of waste hazard classification (2014, 2017), the publication of a technical standard on management of WEEE (2015), and a restriction of use for decabromodiphenylether in the product regulation (2017). Data of bromine (n = 4283) and BFR concentrations (n = 98) in plastics from electric and electronic equipment (EEE), and from WEEE processing facilities before and after sorting for bromine in four sites in France have been studied for chemical composition and for regulatory classification. The WEEE was analysed by handheld X-ray fluorescence, and the waste was sorted after shredding, by on-line X-ray transmission for total bromine content (< or > 2000 mg/kg) in small household appliances (SHA), cathode ray tubes (CRT) and flat screens plastics. In equipment (n = 347), 15% of the equipment items have no bromine, while 46% have at least one part with bromine, and 39% have all parts brominated. The bromine concentration in plastics is very heterogeneous, found in high concentrations in large household appliance (LHA) plastics, and also found in unexpected product categories, as observed by other authors. Clearly, an unwanted global loop of brominated substances occurs via the international recycling of plastic scrap. In waste (n = 65), polybromobiphenyls, polybromodiphenylethers (PBDE), tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) and hexabromocyclododecane were analysed. The most concentrated BFRs are decaBDE (3000 mg/kg) and TBBPA (8000 mg/kg). The bromine concentration of regulated brominated substances was identified in 2014 and 2015 to be up to 86% of total bromine in “old” waste (SHA, CRT), 30–50% in “younger” waste (Flat screens), and a mean of only 8% in recent products (2009–2013). Regulated substances are a minority of all the brominated substances and the only practical way to sort is to measure total bromine on-line. The sorting reduces the mean bromine concentration in the “Low Br” fraction in all sites, and reduces the decaBDE concentration to levels below the restricted use limit. After sorting, the concentration in the “High Br” fractions exceeds all present or future regulatory limits. In conclusion, sorting of small household appliances, cathode ray tubes and flat screen plastics is necessary to avoid uncontrolled dispersion of regulated substances in recycled raw material. Other categories (large household appliances, electric and electronic tools, lighting equipment) should also be considered, since their total bromine content (unweighted mean concentration) is high for some of these products. A European campaign consisting of 7 countries and 35 sites will begin in 2017, directed by WEEE Forum, the European association speaking for thirty-one not-for-profit e-waste producer responsibility organisations, to assess the mean bromine content of plastics from large household appliances after shredding.
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Dates and versions

ineris-01853528 , version 1 (03-08-2018)



Pierre Hennebert, Monteserrat Filella. WEEE plastic sorting for bromine essential to enforce EU regulation. Waste Management, 2018, 71, pp.390-399. ⟨10.1016/j.wasman.2017.09.031⟩. ⟨ineris-01853528⟩


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