Manage waste upholstered domestic seating containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs)

Identify, describe, classify and manage waste upholstered domestic seating containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

Identify waste upholstered domestic seating that contains POPs

Waste domestic seating is any item of seating of a household type from households or businesses that is waste. Upholstered domestic seating may contain POPs. For example:

  • sofas
  • sofa beds
  • armchairs
  • kitchen and dining room chairs
  • stools and foot stools
  • home office chairs
  • futons
  • bean bags, floor and sofa cushions

This includes any part made of or containing leather, synthetic leather, other fabric, or foam.

The following items of domestic seating are unlikely to contain POPs:

  • items that are not upholstered, for example, a wooden chair without a cushioned or textile back, seat, or arms
  • deckchairs
  • wastes from manufacturing new domestic seating that the manufacturer can demonstrate do not to contain POPs

Mattresses, curtains, blinds and beds are not domestic seating and are not covered by this guidance.

Describe and classify waste domestic seating containing POPs

In your waste transfer note you must:

  • describe the waste as ‘domestic seating waste containing POPs’
  • classify it with the list of waste code 20 03 07

You must add this description for waste domestic seating containing POPs where it has been mixed with other waste (not containing POPs). For example, in a skip or bay of bulky household waste.

You must list the relevant chemicals in the waste transfer note.

POPs and other chemicals that waste domestic seating may contain

Waste upholstered domestic seating often contains one of the following POPs on the back of the covers and in the foam:

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

These chemicals may also contaminate lining and wadding in contact with foam or covers.

The following hazardous chemicals are also likely to be present:

  • antimony trioxide – a carcinogenic synergist often used with DecaBDE
  • medium chain chlorinated paraffins – often used in synthetic leather to make it flexible

Other flame retardants, and hazardous components of PVC, may also be present.

Waste from manufacturing upholstered domestic seating

When you manufacture upholstered domestic seating you must know what chemicals are in the:

  • covers
  • foam
  • lining
  • wadding

Suppliers from some countries still supply materials containing chemicals, for example flame retardants, that are POPs.

You must make sure that any waste you produce from manufacturing upholstered domestic seating is described and classified correctly. This is so that your waste contractor can manage it appropriately.

You should clearly label your new products with the chemicals that are present in their components. This will make sure that they are managed appropriately in the future, including when they are:

  • reused
  • recycled
  • disposed of

Sort and store waste upholstered domestic seating containing POPs

You must sort and store waste upholstered domestic seating containing POPs in a way that prevents:

  • damaging it
  • release of POPs
  • contamination with other waste

You must avoid mixing waste upholstered domestic seating containing POPs with other waste during waste:

  • production
  • storage
  • collection
  • treatment

This includes in a:

  • skip or container
  • bay at a household waste recycling centre (HWRC), transfer station, or treatment site

In exceptional circumstances, you can justify not segregating further where both of these apply:

  • you have already taken all reasonable steps
  • there are no other alternatives

You must provide evidence to the Natural Resources Wales. However, they may not accept this.

You can collect waste upholstered domestic seating on the same vehicle as other waste items (for example, doorstep bulky waste collection) as long as they are:

  • not mixed
  • collected in a way that does not allow it to contaminate the other waste
  • separated from the other waste when unloaded from the vehicle

If you do mix POPs waste with non-POPs waste, you must manage the whole load as POPs waste until you can separate the upholstered domestic seating. You must destroy the POPs even if the mixing has diluted the POPs to below the concentration limit.

Separating whole items of upholstered domestic seating from mixed waste

This includes where the waste was mixed unintentionally or inappropriately.

You can only separate whole items of upholstered domestic seating from mixed waste, for example fly-tipped waste or waste in a skip, if you can show that it has not contaminated the other waste.

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

If contamination has taken place, you must manage the whole load as POPs waste.

Identify whole items that do and do not contain POPs

You can identify items of waste upholstered domestic seating that do not contain POPs and store them separately.

You can use x-ray fluorescence (XRF) to scan for bromine, which indicates that POPs are likely to be present. However, you must:

  • have the right training for using XRF and use a suitable device
  • have read the study of POPs in domestic seating waste to understand what is required
  • contact us to check if you need to make any changes to your permit and management system
  • be able to show that your process works and is accurate – we may ask you for this evidence

Dispose of waste domestic seating containing POPs

You must incinerate waste domestic seating containing POPs or mixed waste containing it.

The municipal or hazardous waste incinerator (or cement kiln) must be authorised to accept POPs waste.

You must not use any other waste treatment, recycling or disposal methods.

Contingency plan for incinerator shutdown

Where the incinerator cannot accept the waste, you can:

  • store the waste until the incinerator is able accept it
  • send it to another incinerator or cement kiln authorised to accept and destroy it

You must not send it for any other type of disposal or recovery operation, for example landfill.

Incinerator operators need to put contingency plans in place to manage accepting waste from customers with waste upholstered domestic seating containing POPs for destruction. They cannot send this waste to landfill in the event of a planned or unplanned shutdown.

Prepare the waste for destruction

If the incinerator operator requires the POPs containing waste to be shredded, because they cannot handle whole items of waste upholstered domestic seating, you must:

  • use shredding plant inside a building
  • not allow unabated point source or fugitive emissions of particulates from the plant or building

You must control fugitive emissions of particulates with one of the following:

  • containment and abatement of the shredding plant
  • local extraction to abatement
  • full building extraction under negative pressure to abatement

You must use bag filters on the abatement plant designed to release particulates below 5mg/m3. They must be fitted with continuous and alarmed pressure monitoring to make sure the filters are working correctly.

You must:

  • not remove materials for recycling unless you can show that they do not contain residual dust, fabric or foam containing POPs
  • send any outputs or residues from treatment that contain the POPs containing material, fabric or foam, for destruction
  • send any fines, dust or particulates produced by the process for destruction, and describe the waste for transfer as ‘containing POPs’
  • store shredded waste upholstered domestic seating containing POPs within a building, or in a sealed container, or baled and securely wrapped

You may send metal fractions to a suitably authorised smelter operating under recovery code R4. Where the waste contains fabric and foam, you must classify and describe the waste as ‘mixed waste containing POPs’. If you carry out any intermediary treatment you must:

  • have appropriate abatement and emissions controls
  • send any outputs or residues containing the fabric and foam for destruction

The incinerator operator may require you to blend the segregated waste upholstered domestic seating with other waste to:

  • make loading easier
  • control calorific value
  • optimise combustion

When you blend the waste, you must do it in a way that uses the least amount of non-POPs waste necessary to avoid:

  • release of particulates containing POPs
  • contaminating more waste than necessary

Contact us at for advice on how to make changes to your management system and permit if you want to install plant to prepare POPs waste at your site.

How landfill operators must manage waste upholstered domestic seating

Landfill operators must not accept any waste upholstered domestic seating containing POPs. This includes:

  • segregated items of waste upholstered domestic seating
  • mixed waste containing items of waste upholstered domestic seating
  • shredded or broken up waste from treating waste containing waste upholstered domestic seating, including refuse derived fuel (RDF) and solid recovered fuel (SRF)
  • trommel fines from treating waste containing waste upholstered domestic seating, including the dust from air filtration systems

Your waste acceptance procedures must screen out waste upholstered domestic seating. You must quarantine this waste type and send it to an appropriately authorised incinerator for destruction.

You can only landfill items of waste upholstered domestic seating where you have confirmation that it does not contain POPs. This confirmation must come from a site that has documented procedures in place for correctly identifying and separating items of seating containing POPs. See the section on ‘Identifying whole items that do and do not contain POPs’.

Treatment: separating materials containing POPs from other materials

You can separate the foam and fabric containing POPs from other materials in an item of domestic seating. Your environmental permit must authorise this activity.

If you manually separate, you must make sure:

  • all foam and textiles are completely removed, and you manage any part of the item with foam and textile attached to it as POPs waste
  • you prevent or contain any dust, or fragments of foam and textile released from the material and you must manage the dust and fragments as POPs waste
  • you store separated material containing POPs inside a building, under cover, or in a sealed container
  • that no POPs are released to the sewer or surface water

If you use mechanical treatment processes, you must also follow the guidance in the section Prepare the waste for destruction. Contact the Natural Resources Wales if you need advice on how to operate your mechanical treatment process legally.

Treatment: compacting waste domestic seating containing POPs

Compacting waste domestic seating containing POPs is allowed. However, you must take reasonable steps to prevent, contain and collect any releases of POPs contaminated material or dust that the compaction produces.

You can do this by squashing the waste slowly to confine all materials within the space you are working. For example you can use:

  • a grab or bucket to compact the waste steadily
  • the roller packer system in the container
  • ram-based compaction into a container

You must regularly check for particulates to make sure they are not released during compaction. You can control release by:

  • misting and using sprays over the container
  • using suitably placed mobile dust suppression cannons
  • spraying the surface of the waste before compaction using a backpack sprayer

You must send this compacted waste and any contaminated material or dust for destruction. You must not send it to landfill.

Exporting waste domestic seating containing POPs for incineration

You must only export waste upholstered domestic seating to European Union or European Free Trade Association countries for incineration with energy recovery (R1).

If the incinerator you are sending the waste to requires you to prepare the waste for destruction, you can do this as long as your site, or the site you use, is suitably authorised. Contact us at to check how to make sure your management system and permit covers this treatment.

If you export RDF or SRF which is made from waste upholstered domestic seating or is partly made from of waste domestic seating containing POPs, the POPs must be destroyed.

You must make sure that the presence of POPs is made clear in block 12 ‘designation and composition’ of your notification.

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