The circular economy is an appealing idea to stop the ongoing over-exploitation of the planet’s natural resources, but it is confronted with a difficult challenge that is often over looked – the presence of harmful chemicals in materials we recycle.
The EU has committed to switching from a linear ‘take-make-consume-dispose’ economic model to a circular one. In January, it published a Circular Economy Package including a strategy for plastics, and a communication on the links between chemical, waste and product legislation.
ClientEarth chemical lawyer, Alice Bernard, argues that the current EU legal framework needs to be adapted to ensure the circular economy is truly beneficial for the environment. In an article for the Environment Law Network International Review (ELNI), she highlights gaps in EU law which create a risk of losing track of the hazardous chemicals present in materials.
This deficient information flow makes it harder for producers to recycle products without exposing people and the environment to chemicals, which are now officially recognised as dangerous. Ensuring materials do not contain hazardous substances should be the EU’s priority.