Key findings: The use of recycled materials in consumer products and potential chemical safety concerns

This scoping study was commissioned by the Office for Product Safety and Standards from WRAP to identify and evaluate the risks arising from the use of recycled materials in specific consumer products.
Key findings: The use of recycled materials in consumer products and potential chemical safety concerns
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A study entitled 'The use of recycled materials in consumer products and potential chemical safety concerns' was commissioned by the Office for Product Safety and Standards from WRAP and published last week. The study was conducted by carrying out a literature review, analysing the European Union’s Safety Gate product alert portal, and by various means of engagement with industry stakeholders.

The project set out to answer the following questions:

  • What are the potential chemical safety concerns relating to the use of recycled
    materials when compared with virgin materials in consumer products and
    associated user exposure risks?
  • What are manufacturer’s responsibilities when using recycled materials in
    products?
  • What is the application and extent of uses of recycled materials in consumer
    products?
  • What are the differences in the chemical makeup of products originating from
    within the EU and those from outside the EU?

Key findings

WRAP summarised the study's key findings as per the below bullet points:

1. Chemical safety risks of products appears to be driven primarily by the purposeful addition of functional additives to products. 

Any risks from recycling stem from these initial additions of chemicals to products for desired effects. Phthalates, flame retardants and heavy metals are the main additives of concern.

2. There is a clear and well-documented undesirable circular economy of e-waste plastics occurring globally. 

Waste electronics containing restricted chemicals, mainly flame retardants and heavy metals associated with them, should be sorted and disposed of.

3. There is substantial variation within industries determined by the country of origin of the product and the nature of the business.

The Safety Gate data clearly points to the disproportionate role of non-UK and EU countries as the source of chemically unsafe products.

You can read the full study here

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