Legislative Update – Disposal of Soft Furnishings containing POPs

The Environment Agency have recently issued new guidance regarding how Soft Furnishings e.g., sofas and armchairs containing Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) should be managed.

Following an investigation, the EA has identified that significant levels of POPs have been found in soft furnishings, and the new guidance states that these products should not be landfilled, mixed with other waste streams, reused or recycled. This means that all POPs-affected furnishings must be treated at energy from waste (EfW) facilities.

This means that any items which may contain POPs must be identified and segregated at source.

Which Materials are affected:

Materials which may contain POPs include:
Sofas, Sofa Beds, Armchair, Kitchen / Dining Room Chairs, Stools, Footstools, Office Chairs, Futons, Bean Bags, Floor and Sofa Cushions – and can include any part containing leather, synthetic leather, fabric or foam material.

How should these wastes be managed:

If you identify that you need to dispose of furnishings that contain POPs the waste must be stored and collected separately, must be described as ‘domestic seating containing POPs; and classified using the EWC Code 20 03 07.
The wastes must not be put in the Mixed Waste or Municipal Skips and need to be managed as a separate waste stream.
When moving the POPS waste the relevant chemicals must be listed on the Waste Transfer Note – Waste upholstered domestic seating often contains one of the following on the back of the covers and in the foam:

  • decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE) – the most common
  • hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD)
  • pentabromodiphenyl ether (PentaBDE)
  • tetrabromodiphenyl ether (TetraBDE)

If you have an upholstered domestic seating you must sort and store waste containing POPs in a way that prevents:

  • damage
  • release of POPs
  • contamination with other waste.

Waste containing POPs must not be mixed with any other waste during production, storage, collection and treatment – including within a skip.

What if soft furnishings are placed in a skip:

If POPs waste is mixed with non-POPs waste, then the whole load will be classified as POPs waste (20 03 07), and may be charged at a higher rate rather than a one-off contamination charge for an individual item – this is due to the potential for contamination.

Contamination can happen when pieces of foam, cover, lining or wadding material are released from the item.

Waste can only classified as not containing POPs if:

  • the items is not upholstered e.g. wooden chair without any cushioning or a textile back
  • deckchairs
  • wastes from manufacturing new domestic seating that the manufacturer can demonstrate does not contain POPs

What now?

If you have any soft furnishings that you need to dispose of please get contact Ecofficiency on 0800 030 5051 or Technical@ecofficiency.co.uk

  • Chemical flame retardants such as decaBDE have been widely used in items such as soft furnishings until restrictions under the Stockholm Convention forced the UK industry to phase out use from 2006 onwards, and the chemical was banned from use in all upholstered furniture in 2019
  • Mattresses, curtains, blinds and beds are not covered by this guidance.

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