Guidance

Identify and dispose of waste containing persistent organic pollutants

How to identify and destroy waste that contains persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

You must follow this guide if you are disposing of waste that contains a persistent organic pollutant (POP).

Find out if your waste contains POPs

It is your responsibility to know if your waste material contains POPs.

If you are not sure you can:

  • ask the suppliers or manufacturers of the material
  • test the material yourself to find out the concentration of any POPs in it
  • get the material analysed by a laboratory

If you produce, collect or receive waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), read the guidance Classifying WEEE. It explains which of these wastes contain POPs.

When you must destroy POPs in waste

You must destroy the POPs in the waste if they are above the concentration limits listed in the concentration limit table. This waste is known as POPs waste.

If you treat POPs waste and the treatment does not reliably destroy the POPs, any waste that results from the treatment, and contains these POPs, is also POPs waste. You must destroy the POPs in the treated waste even if the concentration is below the limits in this table.

Concentration limit table

Persistent organic pollutant (POP) Concentration threshold
Aldrin 50 mg per kg
Alkanes C10 – C13, chloro (short-chain chlorinated parafins) (SCCPs) 10,000 mg per kg
Chlordane 50 mg per kg
Dieldrin 50 mg per kg
Endosulfan 50 mg per kg
Endrin 50 mg per kg
Heptachlor 50 mg per kg
Hexabromobiphenyl 50 mg per kg
Hexachlorobutadiene 100 mg per kg
Hexabromocyclododecane 1,000 mg per kg
Hexachlorobenzene 50 mg per kg
Mirex 50 mg per kg
Toxaphene 50 mg per kg
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) 50 mg per kg (if you are not sure whether your waste contains PCBs, use the calculation method given in European standards EN 12766-1 and EN 12766-2, which you can buy online)
Polychlorinated napthalenes 10 mg per kg
DDT (1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis (4-chlorophenyl) ethane) 50 mg per kg
Chlordecone 50 mg per kg
Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) 15 μg (micrograms) per kg, meaning 0.000015g of PCDD or PCDF per kg of waste (you need to use the toxic equivalency factor of each PCDD or PCDF, to calculate concentration)
Hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCH), including lindane 50 mg per kg
Total of tetra-, penta-, hexa-, hepta- and deca- bromodiphenyl ether Sum of concentrations: 1,000 mg per kg
Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and PFOS derivatives 50 mg per kg
Pentachlorobenzene 50 mg per kg

You can find the chemical formulae, European Community (EC) numbers and Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) numbers for each of the POPs in this table in the list of POPs.

Your laboratory analysis for polybromodiphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in plastic may significantly underestimate the concentration present because the extraction efficiency may be poor. You must measure the extraction efficiency and adjust the results accordingly.

How to destroy the POP content of your waste

You must make sure you send your waste to an authorised disposal or recovery site that can completely destroy POPs or irreversibly transform them using one of the following methods:

  • D9 – physico-chemical treatment, such as chemical destruction
  • D10 – incineration on land
  • R1 – using the waste as a fuel or other means to generate energy some other way (not for material containing PCBs)
  • R4 – recycling or reclamation of metals and metal compounds, under the conditions set out in Annex V Part 1 of the POPs regulations

The appropriate method to use will be based on:

  • the properties of the POP
  • the type of waste containing the POP
  • other chemicals or material present in the waste

Reusing waste containing POPs

You must not reuse waste containing POPs.

The POPs must be destroyed. This means that you cannot turn the waste into a product for reuse. It must remain waste and waste controls will apply.

Reusing WEEE

Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) manufactured after 1 January 2009, is much less likely to contain PBDE POPs. Their use should have stopped for products selling in Europe. However POPs have been found in some equipment manufactured years after this date.

You must only reuse WEEE as EEE within the UK if you can demonstrate both of the following, you have:

You must only export WEEE as EEE for reuse if you can demonstrate that you have checked each item of WEEE to make sure it is not POPs waste. You must demonstrate that it does not contain POPs above the concentration limits in any of the following:

  • printed circuit boards
  • cables and internal wiring
  • plastic components

You must also meet all other relevant requirements for reusing WEEE.

Recycling and recovering waste containing POPs

You must not recycle waste material containing POPs.

You must make sure the POPs are destroyed.

You may recover the waste where the recovery process destroys the POP – for example incineration with energy recovery.

You can send your waste to an operator who can treat the waste to remove or separate the materials:

  • that contain POPs – these must be destroyed
  • that do not contain POPs – these can be recycled or recovered

Mixing POPs waste with other waste

You must avoid mixing POPs waste with other waste during storage, collection and treatment.

If you do mix, you must still destroy the POPs even if the mixing has diluted the POPs to below the concentration limit.

Toxic equivalency factors of PCDDs and PCDFs

To find out the concentration of PCDDs and PCDFs in your waste, you need to multiply the concentration of the specific PCDD or PCDF in your waste by its toxic equivalency factor (TEF).

We have provided the TEFs of each PCDD or PCDF in this section if you want to make calculations yourself.

Or you can email chemicalrestrictions@environment-agency.gov.uk if your material contains PCDDs or PCDFs and you want to discuss how to calculate concentrations.

TEFs of PCDDs

This table lists the TEF for each type of PCDD:

PCDD TEF
2,3,7,8-TeCDD 1
1,2,3,7,8-PeCDD 1
1,2,3,4,7,8-HxCDD 0.1
1,2,3,6,7,8-HxCDD 0.1
1,2,3,7,8,9-HxCDD 0.1
1,2,3,4,6,7,8-HpCDD 0.01
OCDD 0.0003
1,2,3,6,7,8-HxCDF 0.1
1,2,3,7,8,9-HxCDF 0.1
2,3,4,6,7,8-HxCDF 0.1
1,2,3,4,6,7,8-HpCDF 0.01
1,2,3,4,7,8,9-HpCDF 0.01
OCDF 0.0003

TEFs of PCDFs

This table gives the TEF for each type of PCDF:

PCDF TEF
2,3,7,8-TeCDF 0.1
1,2,3,7,8-PeCDF 0.03
2,3,4,7,8-PeCDF 0.3
1,2,3,4,7,8-HxCDF 0.1

Mixtures of multiple PCDDs or PCDFs

If your waste contains a mixture of several different PCDDs and PCDFs. You need to multiply each PCDD or PCDF by its TEF, and then add the concentrations together.

Example calculation

If your waste contains 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDD at a concentration of 14 μg per kg and 1,2,3,4,7,8-HxCDD at a concentration of 30 μg per kg, you would calculate the concentration of PCDDs and PCDFs as follows.

14 μg per kg x 1 (TEF of 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDD) + 30 μg per kg x 0.1 (TEF of 1,2,3,4,7,8-HxCDD)
= 14 μg per kg + 3 μg per kg
= 17 μg per kg

In this case the concentration of PCDDs and PCDFs in your waste would be above the threshold in the concentrations table (15 μg per kg). Therefore you would have to follow this guide when you dispose of it.

Apply to dispose of POPs waste by permanent storage

In exceptional cases a waste holder can apply for permission to permanently store some types of waste and hazardous waste that contain POPs. They can do this instead of destroying them.

To get approval, you must:

  • provide information on the POP content of the waste
  • explain where the waste will be permanently stored, and demonstrate that the site is authorised for permanent storage of POPs waste

We will only give permission in exceptional circumstances and on a case by case basis. Email chemicalrestrictions@environment-agency.gov.uk if you want to discuss this option.

Where you can permanently store material

If the Environment Agency approves your application to store rather than destroy waste, you can store it at the following types of site. It must be specifically authorised for POPs waste. These are the types of site:

  • deep underground hard rock formations
  • salt mines
  • hazardous waste landfill sites

You can only apply to do this at a hazardous waste landfill site if your waste is listed in Annex V, Part 2 of the POPs regulations. The levels of POPs must be below the concentration limits specified in the table in that Annex.

Veolia’s Minosus salt mine in Cheshire is currently the only site in the UK where you can permanently store waste that contains POPs.

Email chemicalrestrictions@environment-agency.gov.uk to discuss other sites outside the UK.

Published 27 March 2015
Last updated 8 June 2020 + show all updates
  1. We have updated this guide to reflect a revision of the Persistent Organic Pollutant Regulations in 2019. Following a study to examine the presence of POPs in waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), we have clarified the requirements for how you must manage WEEE.

  2. Added to tables 'deca-' Total of tetra-, penta-, hexa-, hepta- and deca- bromodiphenyl ether.

  3. Changes to the EU POPs regulations: new substances have been added to the regulations; conditions for some substances have changed; thresholds for waste management controls have been amended.

  4. First published.