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Chemicals in material cycles: how EU law needs adjustments for the transition to an environmentally beneficial circular economy

Alice Bernard

elni Review 2017, Issue 2, pp. 54-59. https://doi.org/10.46850/elni.2017.008

This article argues that the current EU legal framework needs adjustments to ensure that recovered materials do not contain hazardous chemicals in concentrations that are no longer considered safe. It also shows, with a case study, gaps in EU law regarding information on hazardous chemicals in material cycles. These gaps are barriers for economic actors willing to switch from primary to secondary production. Before digging into the details of the current legal framework, the article defines the terminology used in the case study, stemming from the three main relevant blocks of legislation: chemicals, product and waste legislation. The case study analysed in the article explains how, despite compliance with EU law, information on the presence of a flame retardant in textile used in a hypothetical mattress could get lost in the life cycle of this material. Furthermore, the paper explains how this loss of information could make the circular economy fail, and have the side effect of putting at risk human health and the environment due to prolonged exposure to hazardous chemicals. This article concludes with recommendations to improve information on chemicals in material cycles.

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