Persistent Organic Pollutants

The UK is a party to the Stockholm Convention a global treaty to eliminate or restrict the use of Persistent Organic Pollutants (The POPs).

POPs are a group of chemical substances which persist in the environment, may accumulate in food and human tissue and are toxic. 

POPs can be grouped into three main groups;

  1. pesticides,
  2. industrial chemicals and
  3. those released accidentally from combustion and some industrial processes, such as burning material and fuels.

Some POPs may belong to more than one group.

REGULATION (EU) 2019/ 1021 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL - of 20 June 2019 - on persistent organic pollutants ( ("the EU POPs Regulation") implements the Stockholm Convention in the EU.

Since 1st January 2021, Northern Ireland has continued to implement the EU POPs Regulation as a result of the NI Protocol.

In Northern Ireland DAERA is the Competent Authority with responsibility for enforcing the EU POPs Regulation.

The EU POPs Regulation aims to protect human health and the environment with specific control measures that:

  • prohibit or severely restrict the production, placing on the market and use of POPs;
  • minimise the environmental release of POPs that are formed as industrial by-products;
  • make sure that stockpiles of restricted POPs are safely managed; and
  • ensure the environmentally sound disposal of waste consisting of, or contaminated by POPs.

Waste containing POPs must be traced and treated specially to destroy all POPs content if the POP level of the waste is above a threshold value.

If you have any stores of POPs or POP-containing substances you must dispose of them correctly. 

You will also need to assess whether the POP or POP-containing substance or equipment is classed as hazardous/special waste. This will place additional requirements on how you store, transport and dispose of it.

If you have any questions on POPs disposal you can contact the DAERA Hazardous Waste Team.

As a result of the introduction of the EU POPs Regulation in July 2019, DAERA will be updating domestic Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) Regulations.

This amendment will take account of changes in EU law to how PCB waste is to be managed and recorded in the future.

Holders of PCB equipment will need to register with an NIEA managed database.

Further information on the current provisions can be found on the page on the Registration and Disposal of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs).

Equipment and machinery that may contain or emit PCBs include:

  • electrical transformers
  • process heating equipment
  • high temperature hydraulic systems
  • high voltage equipment
  • fluorescent light ballasts
  • electric arc furnaces.

If you are a holder of PCB containing equipment or require advice you can contact the Chemicals and Industrial Pollution Policy Branch.

New research by the Environment Agency (EA) has confirmed that Decabromidiphenyl ether (decaBDE), a banned POP, is present at levels above current legal thresholds in 30%-40% of items of domestic seating soft furnishings (DSSF) produced before 2019 when decaBDE was banned.

Under the Persistent Organic Pollutant legislation this waste containing POPs above the legal threshold must be diverted from landfill to incineration to ensure the decaBDE content is destroyed.

DSSF are defined as:

  • sofas;
  • armchairs;
  • dining chairs with soft seating (both fully upholstered and partially upholstered);
  • sofa-beds;
  • futons; and
  • upholstered office chairs for the home.

DAERA officials are working alongside the GB Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the other devolved administrations to better understand the scale of the issue, options for waste management and the practical considerations that will likely be faced when developing plans for managing DSSF.                                                       

If you require any further information, you may contact the Chemicals and Industrial Pollution Policy Branch of DAERA.

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