Based on measurements in plastics samples, tonnages of halogenated FRs in recycled plastics in China were estimated. Total levels of twelve halogenated flame retardants (HFRs)* were measured in 23 samples of recycled plastics, manufactured in five Chinese provinces. Mean total HFR concentrations were approx. 4 – 60 µg/kg for different recycled polymers tested**. For 2014, this resulted in estimates of total c. 3 000 t/y of HFRs in recycled plastics in China. This was around ten times lower than an estimate based on plastics production for the same year (20% of plastics produced estimated to be flame retardant, 250 000 tonnes of FRs used in plastics in China, of which c. 50% halogenated, around 30% plastics recycling). The authors suggest that the difference may result from migration out of plastics during use or recycling. pinfa suggests that the difference may also result from a lower recycling rate for FR plastics (e.g. compared to packaging plastics which are generally not FR).
* PBDEs, DecaBDE, BTBPE = 1,2-bis(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)ethane and dechlorane plus isomers. **: PVC, polypropylene, ABS, polystyrene and polyethylene.
“The non-negligible environmental risk of recycling halogenated flame retardants associated with plastic regeneration in China”, Z. Cao et al., Science of the Total Environment 646 (2019) 1090–1096 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.373