Aiming for harmless material cycles
The goals of circular economy include reducing the consumption of materials and retaining the value of products and materials as long as possible. The aim is not only to improve resource efficiency by repair, reuse and material recycling, but also to achieve environmental benefits in general by reducing the use of virgin materials. This also makes circular economy one of the ways to combat climate change. Management of chemicals in the circular economy supports the goals of sustainable development.
Managing harmful substances in the circular economy is a balancing act between maximising the recovery and recycling of waste and the protection of health and the environment. Old products, especially ones with a long life span, may have materials that contain hazardous chemicals. The use of the chemicals was allowed at the time when the product was manufactured, and the risks associated with the chemicals were recognized
much later. The occurrence of hazardous chemicals in humans or the environment has been reduced by regulations and restrictions.
The most hazardous substances found in products include persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and substances of very high concern (SVHCs) that e.g. may affect reproductive health, are mutagenic and carcinogenic.
Finland is committed to the international restrictions on POPs. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) maintains a list of SVHCs also including substance-specific information. Based on constantly increasing research-based information about findings in the properties of the chemicals, chemicals in the environment or their impact on humans, new compounds are added to the lists of POPs or SVHCs.