The brominated flame retardant industry, BSEF, has published a report by SOFIES discussing brominated flame retardants in WEEE recycling. The report was presumably funded by BSEF (but this is not stated) and appears to be based on 50 references and input from around 12 stakeholders (not including BSEF member companies). It concludes that only around 9% of the 2.6 million t/y of WEEE plastics generated in Europe contain brominated FRs (BFRs) and that restricted BFRs only represent a small and declining fraction of BFRs found in WEEE. However, some 55% of BFR plastics are today not correctly separated and disposed of because of improper sorting by consumers or substandard WEEE treatment practices. Also, some BFR plastics are accidentally recycled (the report indicates 5% BFR ABS and BFR HIPS) because even where operated correctly (generally by density), sorting is not 100% reliable. The report suggests that non-halogen FRs, in particular phosphorus FRs, “are known to negatively impact the recyclability of WEEE plastics” but this is based on concerns expressed by WEEE recyclers (no references) and on two non-recent studies (Imai et al. 2003, funded by BSEF, and Statler et al. 2008). Neither of these studies support the statement made, see below. The report also ignores more recent studies which suggest that PIN FRs are compatible with plastics recycling (see two studies by Wagner et al., 2019, in pinfa Newsletter 110) and results of the studies carried out for pinfa by Fraunhofer IGB (pinfa Newsletter 105, 2019).
“Study on the Impacts of Brominated Flame Retardants on the Recycling of WEEE plastics in Europe.”, SOFIES, November 2020, published by BSEF https://www.bsef.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Study-on-the-impact-of-Brominated-Flame-Retardants-BFRs-on-WEEE-plastics-recycling-by-Sofies-Nov-2020.pdf
“Recyclability of Flame Retarded Polycarbonate: Comparison of Non-halogenated to Halogenated Flame Retardants”, D. Statler et al., J Fire Sci 26, 331-350, 2008 https://doi.org/10.1177/0734904108090828 . In this study, polycarbonate flame retarded with brominated FR or with PIN FR potassium diphenylsulfone sulfonate (KSS) was subjected to eight recycles (granulating, melting, injection molding) concluding that the PIN FR resists as well as does the halogenated FR.
“Comparison of the Recyclability of Flame-Retarded Plastics”, T. Imai et al., Environ. Sci. Technol., 2003, 37 (3), pp 652–656, https://doi.org/10.1021/es025771c In this study eight polycarbonate blends (PC/ABS or PC/HIPS) with phosphate ester PIN FR were compared to two ABS with brominated FR under four recycles (granulating, melting, extrusion). In that the polymers tested were different, no conclusion can be drawn concerning the impact of the FR system on recycling.