The utter hoplessness of the situation summed up by:
Recently, the Environment Agency issued a letter to all local authorities with the directive that with immediate effect they must safely dispose of upholstered domestic seating at end-life containing Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
There are many, many questionable elements to this letter but by far the biggest one is contained in the title of and this quote from the letter:
Waste Upholstered Domestic Seating
If an item of domestic seating waste is upholstered you should assume that it contains POPs, and manage it as a POPs waste, unless you can demonstrate that it does not contain POPs. Further information can be found in the section on identification and separation of items containing POPs.
The following items are not considered ‘domestic seating’ for the purposes of this letter (my emphasis):
- - Items that are not upholstered (for example a wooden chair without a cushioned or textile back, seat, or arms). These should not contain POPs.
- - Deckchairs, mattresses, curtains, blinds, and beds
- - Wastes from the manufacture of new domestic seating that are known not to contain POPs
2) Why are mattresses exempt? Okay, yes, they're not seating as such but entitling this letter "Waste Upholstered Domestic Seating" was suspicious in the first place.
Well, without going into all the details, let's just say that in private, both the National Bed Federation and the Environment Agency, gave the same ludicrous answer: that the EA had only been able to get around to researching sofas; mattresses will come later. But as I pointed out at a talk to furniture producers at SATRA recently, first the EA should not have issued this letter until both the main sources of POPs waste had been "researched"; second, mattress producers have been given carte blanche to dispose of products at end-life any old way they want to. Which has long been the goal of the National Bed Federation of course.
This kind of collusion between industry and government is now rife in the UK, and always towards what suits industry's purposes (which is profit first, last and always).
Incidentally, in its letter the EA lists the kinds of POPs typically found in upholstered waste, with DecaBDE the "most common". But what it neglects to inform us is that DecaBDE was banned a few years ago for being toxic. Yet here is the government, not only doing nothing about the millions of mattresses and sofas in UK homes that contain DecaBDE in large volumes, it's now given the go-ahead for Deca in millions of mattresses to be thrown into landfill or recycled into other household products that in turn will get back into us.
The greens are colluding with this. Recently, they sent round an email about this letter looking at the chemicals involved but managing somehow to miss the key problem issue: mattresses. Why? Well, this is typical of most green groups: they campaign for changes but always within a safety ceiling that guarantees they preserve their reputation as environmental campaigners, and, even more crucially keeps them in work. In short, they might as well be doing the work of industry: keeping public focus on the smaller problems so they can get away with the really big ones.
In other news, the OPSS continues to ensure that nothing is going to change regarding the furniture regulations. They are currently mumbling about issuing "new regulations" at the end of this summer (well . . . ) or sometime next year. What they mean by "regulations" is a consultation on very general "essential safety requirements" that they've cooked up. There are not standards to back them up and unlikely to be for some years to come, if ever. In the meantime, the OPSS will be sure to inform everyone that they must continue to use the current standards. The ones the government itself proved don't work – eight years ago.