Study on Hazardous Household Waste with a main Emphasis on Hazardous Chemicals

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Courtesy of European Commission, Environment DG

Introduction

The aim of this study is to evaluate national experiences of the management of hazardous products likely to become hazardous household waste (HHW), and to make proposals for strategies for the appropriate management of such products within a lifecycle perspective.

The study covers the fifteen Member States and two Accession Countries, namely Hungary and Romania. The data available at the country level are difficult to compare as there are currently neither precise definitions nor common statutory controls within the European Union for hazardous household wastes, each country has adopted a different strategy to deal with hazardous household wastes. Even within any given country, there are a wide range of practices in the collection, handling and treatment for HHW. Therefore until comparable data are available from Member States, any comparison of data from each country must be undertaken with caution

Executive Summary

The Directorate-General Environment has commissioned WRc, in partnership with IFEU, to evaluate national experiences of the management of hazardous products likely to become hazardous household waste (HHW), and to make proposals for strategies for the appropriate management of such products within a lifecycle perspective. This is the Final Report for study B4-3040/2000/305357/MAR/E3 on hazardous household waste (HHW).

The study covers the fifteen Member States and two Accession Countries, namely Hungary and Romania. The data available at the country level are difficult to compare as there are currently neither precise definitions nor common statutory controls within the European Union for hazardous household wastes, each country has adopted a different strategy to deal with hazardous household wastes. Even within any given country, there are a wide range of
practices in the collection, handling and treatment for HHW. Therefore until comparable data are available from Member States, any comparison of data from each country must be undertaken with caution.

For the purpose of this study the term “household hazardous waste (HHW)” is defined as: such wastes that could potentially increase the hazardous properties of municipal solid waste when Iandfilled, incinerated or composted.
The scope of the study focuses on the identification of hazardous household chemicals rather than addressing other hazardous waste that can originate from households such as batteries, waste oils and waste of electronic and electrical equipment. Indeed, these waste streams are or will be subject to specific EC regulations that make their separate collection mandatory. It focuses on hazardous household products that are posing a potential threat to health and environment when disposed of by households and mixed with non-hazardous household waste rather than when disposed to sewer.

The methodology adopted identified a priority list of substances in solid waste that pose the greatest risk to human health and the environment and to match the identified substances to specific HHC and other household products that are likely to result in household hazardous waste (HHW).

Fourteen hazardous substances were identified as priority substances of concerns for solid waste disposal based on an emission inventory from solid waste treatment and disposal facilities such as landfill and incineration.

    • arsenic,
    • lead,
    • cadmium,
    • chromium,
    • copper,
    • nickel,
    • mercury,
    • zinc,
    • PCB,
    • benzene,
    • tetrachloroethylene,
    • trichloroethylene,
    • tetrachloromethane,
    • sodium cyanide.


Household products most likely to contribute significantly to the input of these priority hazardous substances were then identified as being the most problematic for the current waste management and disposal routes, namely paints, pesticides, arsenic treated wood and fluorescent lamps.

Case studies were selected to review interesting initiatives for these priority hazardous household products in order to make recommendations between separate collection or product replacement. The main recommendations are listed below:

    • The paint collection and exchange facility established in the UK through the Re>Paint scheme for unused and leftover paints could be replicated in other countries. It has environmental and social benefits.
    • Separate collection and recycling of low energy light bulbs and fluorescent tubes is beneficial and further improves the overall positive eco-balance at reasonable costs. Such separate collection and treatment schemes are already in place in numerous Member States.
    • There are interesting initiatives to produce mercury-free fluorescent tubes which could not yet be fully reviewed due to lack of reliable data.
    • Arsenic is a major pollutant in solid waste, a major portion of which is from pressuretreated
    wood with chromated copper arsenic (CAA). Alternatives are readily available, far less toxic and strongly favoured by the European Commission seeking a ban of arsenic treated wood. Even if the ban is implemented, arsenic treated wood will remain a problem in MSW management, hence separate collection on the household level (likely together with other treated wood) is a recommended action to minimise improper disposal.
    • There are alternatives to corrosive/aggressive cleaning products based on substances of low toxicity commonly found in kitchen, which are reported to have good efficiency. These could be promoted rather than recommending separate collection for these waste packaging.
    • Spent car oil filters are found in household waste when DIY motorists change their own oil. While there is separate collection promoted for waste oil, there is usually no information provided for oil filters. It is recommended to inform DIY motorists of the risks associated with spent oil filter as well as waste oil and to promote separate collection through bring back schemes at local garages or local civic amenity centres.
    • Separate collection of domestic pesticides and fertilisers is recommended, especially for pesticides containing banned active substances. A combination of collection is advisable (amnesty day organised by pesticide retailers, bring back system at civic amenity centres, etc). Information campaign should stress the need for proper storage and disposal especially for old stocks in garages or garden sheds.

As part of this contract, it was agreed to review disposal methods for HHW including separate collection schemes for batteries, waste oils and WEEEs in the fifteen Member States and two Accession Countries. The relevant authorities and agencies responsible for waste management in each country were contacted to collect information at the National level on quantities of hazardous household waste and HHW management practices.

Regulations are in place in a limited number of EU Member States for a statutory separate collection of identified hazardous household waste (HHW) other than batteries and waste oils. In the other EU countries where there are no specific regulations for HHW, there are policies and recommendations in waste management plan to encourage and implement separate collection of HHW.

The list of identified HHW differ from one country to another which means that quantities of HHW collected separately per inhabitant also vary between countries. Some waste streams not normally defined as hazardous are considered as problematic only by some countries and are collected selectively as HHW (i.e. vegetable oils).
The quantity of hazardous wastes arising from households represents only a very small percentage of the overall municipal waste stream. It is generally reported that the quantities of HHW arising represent 1% (by weight) of household waste. These quantities however vary and it has been estimated that the total quantities of HHW generated by households amount to about 1.5 million tonnes per annum.

The countries where separate collection of HHW is organised usually rely on a combination of mobile collection and free delivery points at civic amenity centres as well as take-back schemes at retailer shops. It is reported that two third of HHW is collected via bring schemes at civic amenity centres and one third via pick-up collection.

There are only reliable and detailed data on quantities of HHW collected separately in Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands. In these countries, apart from batteries and waste oil, the largest volumes of HHW collected selectively includes paint residues. The quantities of HHW separately collected range between 1.3 to 3.5 kg per person and per year representing about 56 and 70% of HHW arising depending on country and method of collection.

It is estimated that the total quantities of HHW collected separately in the European Union currently amount to about 400,000 tpa excluding amount collected in Austria and Germany for which it was not possible to estimate the amount.

The cost for collection at civic amenity (CA) sites ranges from € 0.12 to € 1.7 per kg. The cost for a mobile collection is at least 50% higher per kg than CA collection and ranges from € 3.2 to € 5 per kg for an annual collection via a container or for more frequent collection with a specialised vehicle between € 2 to € 10 per kg. The cost of a regular door to door collection ranges between € 1.7 to 10 per kg.

The cost of HHW treatment varies depending on the method adopted and the standards to which the chosen method has to comply with. It is reported to range between €0.42– 2.2 per kg. The total cost for managing HHW (collection and treatment) is more likely to range between €1 and € 2 per kg. Given a total 1.5 million tonnes of HHW arising per annum, it is estimated that the total cost for collection and proper disposal of all HHW in the EU would be in the order of €1.5 to €3 billion per annum..

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