Presenter:   Geoff Latimer, Environ

Presentation title:  Practical management of brominated flame retardants in e-waste

The New Zealand Ministry for the Environment commissioned a Pilot Project led by ENVIRON Australia Pty Ltd and supported by Geo & Hydro – K8 Ltd, to investigate the practicalities of identifying, sorting and segregating plastics in the e-waste recycling industry, according to those components that contain brominated flame retardant (BFR) chemicals banned under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), and those that do not.  In May 2009, nine new POPs were added to the Convention’s annexes, including certain congeners contained in commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether (c-pentaBDE) and commercial octabromodiphenyl ether (c-octaBDE) and together referred to as POP-BDEs.    Based on recent studies, the Ministry believes that the most likely source of POP-BDEs in New Zealand is in electronic products manufactured up until the mid-2000s.  But without affordable identification and sorting capabilities, New Zealand recyclers have been forced to send plastic components of suspect e-waste to Class A landfill, on the assumption that they contain POP-BDEs, thereby eliminating their downstream recycling value.  Building on recent work around the world, this study collects new information about indicative BFR and POP-BDE concentrations in e-waste.  Combining the results of XRF scanning for bromine (and therefore BFRs) with follow up laboratory analysis for POP-BDEs and other speciated BFRs, the authors produce risk-based decision tables for use by recyclers as a ‘ready reckoner’ approach to rapid, visual-based decisions on how to sort and segregate particular items of e-waste.  Options for identification, sorting and segregation are then proposed for evaluation by a cost benefit analysis in Stage 2 of the study.  As a reliable, low-cost means of removing POP-BDEs from the ABS plastic recycling pool, risk-based visual sorting for POP-BDEs in e-waste is a new approach to managing the delicate balance between efficient and economic use of valuable resources and reducing environmental releases of harmful pollutants.

Event: WasteMINZ Conference 2013

Date: Wednesday 23 October 2013