Identify, classify and manage waste containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs)

You must follow this guidance if you deal with waste that contains a persistent organic pollutant (POP).

POPs are chemical substances that do not break down in the environment. They are a danger to human health and the environment.

Find out if your waste contains POPs

You are responsible under your duty of care to know if your waste material contains POPs.

Find out what types of:

For other waste types, if you are not sure you can:

  • ask the supplier or manufacturer of the material
  • test the material yourself to find out the concentration of any POPs in it
  • get the material analysed by a laboratory

Describe and classify POPs waste

  • You must provide an accurate description of your waste as part of your duty of care.
  • You must include POPs in the description where they are present.

Sort and store POPs waste safely and securely

You must take all reasonable steps to avoid mixing POPs waste with other waste during storage, collection and treatment.

If you do mix, you must manage the whole load as POPs waste. You must destroy the POPs even if the mixing has diluted the POPs to below the concentration limit.

When you must destroy the POPs in waste

If the POPs in the waste are at, or above, the concentration limits listed in the concentration limits table, the waste is known as POPs waste.

You must destroy (or irreversibly transform) the POPs in POPs waste.

If you recover or dispose of POPs waste, you must read the how to manage waste containing POPs section of this guidance.

It explains when the outputs from your process are POPs waste and how concentration limits are applied to them.

Concentration limit table

Persistent organic pollutant (POP)

Concentration threshold


50mg per kg

Alkanes C10 – C13, chloro (short-chain chlorinated parafins) (SCCPs)

10,000mg per kg


50mg per kg


50mg per kg


50mg per kg


50mg per kg


50mg per kg


50mg per kg


100mg per kg


1,000mg per kg


50mg per kg


50mg per kg


50mg per kg

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

50mg per kg (if you are not sure whether your waste contains PCBs, use the calculation method given in European standards EN 12766-1 and EN 12766-2, which you can buy online)

Polychlorinated napthalenes

10mg per kg

DDT (1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis (4-chlorophenyl) ethane)

50mg per kg


50mg per kg

Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs)

15μg (micrograms) per kg, meaning 0.000015g of PCDD or PCDF per kg of waste (you need to use the toxic equivalency factor of each PCDD or PCDF to calculate concentration)

Hexachlorocyclohexanes, including lindane

50mg per kg

Total of tetra-, penta-, hexa-, hepta- and deca- bromodiphenyl ether

Sum of concentrations: 1,000mg per kg

Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and PFOS derivatives

50mg per kg


50mg per kg

You can find the chemical formulae, European Community (EC) numbers and Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) numbers for each of the POPs in this table in the list of POPs.

Your laboratory analysis may significantly underestimate the concentration of POPs present in some materials if extraction efficiency is poor. For example, polybromodiphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in plastic. You must measure the extraction efficiency and adjust the results accordingly.

Removing POPs material from the waste

You can send your waste to a suitably authorised treatment plant that can separate the items, components, or materials containing POPs from the other waste or materials. For example, to a site using density separation to reliably separate plastics containing brominated flame retardant POPs from other plastics.

The separated items, components, or materials containing the POPs must be destroyed.

POPs waste must not be mixed with other waste before or during separation.

Destroying POPs content of your waste 

You must send the waste to a suitably authorised disposal or recovery site that can do one of the following:

  • completely destroy the POPs
  • irreversibly transform the POPs

They must use one of the following methods:

  • D9 – physico-chemical treatment, such as chemical destruction
  • D10 – incineration on land
  • R1 – using the waste as a fuel or other means to generate energy some other way (not for material containing PCBs)
  • R4 – recycling or reclamation of metals and metal compounds, under the conditions set out in Annex V Part 1 of the POPs regulations.

The appropriate method to use will be based on:

  • the properties of the POP
  • the type of waste containing the POP
  • other chemicals or material present in the waste

Repackaging and storing waste containing POPs

You can only repackage or temporarily store POPs waste before:

  • it is destroyed
  • it is irreversibly transformed
  • POPs items, components, or materials are separated

You must hold an authorisation that allows this activity.

Recycling, recovering and reusing waste separated from waste containing POPs

An operator can treat the waste to remove or separate materials that contain POPs from those that do not. They must destroy the POPs in the materials that contain them. They can re-use recycle or recover the separated materials that do not contain POPs.

You must not recycle or reuse any waste that contains POPs. The POPs must be destroyed.

You can recover waste containing POPs where the recovery process destroys the POP. For example, incineration with energy recovery.

Disposing of POPs waste by permanent storage

In exceptional cases a waste holder can apply for permission to permanently store some types of waste and hazardous waste that contain POPs. They can do this instead of destroying them.

To get approval, you must:

  • provide information on the POP content of the waste
  • explain where the waste will be permanently stored, and demonstrate that the site is authorised for permanent storage of POPs waste
  • demonstrate that it is not feasible to decontaminate the waste
  • demonstrate that permanent storage is environmentally preferable to destruction or irreversible transformation of the POP content

We will only give permission in exceptional circumstances and on a case by case basis.

Email  if you want to discuss this option.

Where you can permanently store material

If we approve your application to store rather than destroy waste, you can store it at the following types of site that are suitably authorised to store POPs waste:

  • deep underground hard rock formations
  • salt mines
  • hazardous waste landfill sites

You can only apply to do this at a hazardous waste landfill site if your waste is listed in Annex V, Part 2 of the POPs regulations. The levels of POPs must be below the concentration limits specified in the table in that Annex.

Veolia’s Minosus salt mine in Cheshire is currently the only site in the UK where you can permanently store certain wastes that contain POPs.  Email to discuss other sites outside the UK.

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