The so-called circular economy aims at re-use and recycling of all types of waste. Clearly, re-use and recycling activities should not endanger man and environment through carryover of contaminants.In many used products, hazardous compounds are found or might be present either because of the products’ present intended use or former applications that have been banned in the meantime. To learn more about how hazardous chemicals in waste impede the circular economy, we studied the case of cadmium (Cd) in three important products: NiCd batteries and accumulators, Cd compounds used as stabilisers for PVC profiles, CdTe used for photovoltaic cells. The situation in the European Union was analysed, with a focus on legislation, collection, recycling, disposal and the further fate of “co-recycled” Cd. Insufficient collection rates, partially unsafe disposal and carryover were identified as the main problems. An advanced management strategy for Cd and its compounds is needed in order to mitigate problems in the circular economy. Used products containing hazardous substances ought to be recycled without contaminating the environment or recycled materials. The results suggest that circular economy is faced with different, partially insurmountable challenges. You can download the English version here. Articles on NiCd batteries, Cd stabilizers in PVC window frames, and Cadmium Telluride (PV cells) have already been published or will be published soon in Müll und Abfall.
Circular Economy – how to avoid risks caused by dangerous substances in waste?