What is understood by the circular economy concept is the re-use and recycling of used materials and waste. In many used products, hazardous compounds are found or might be present either because of the products’ present intended use or former applications that have been banned in the meantime. Clearly, recycling activities should not endanger man and environment through carryover of contaminants. To learn more about how hazardous chemicals in waste impede the circular economy, it is necessary to investigate the ways in which products containing hazardous compounds have been handled up to now in order to avoid secondary contamination. For this study, cadmium (Cd) in NiCd batteries and accumulators and Cd compounds used as stabilisers for PVC profiles were selected as examples. The situation in the European Union was analysed, with a focus on legislation, collection, recycling, disposal and the further fate of “co-recycled” Cd. Insufficient collection rates, partially unsafe disposal and carryover were identified as the main problems. An advanced management strategy for Cd and its compounds is needed in order to mitigate problems in the circular economy. Used products containing hazardous substances ought to be recycled without contaminating the environment or recycled materials. The results suggest that circular economy is faced with different, partially insurmountable challenges.
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