The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004. It is a global environmental treaty that aims to protect human health and the environment from a group of chemicals which persist in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, bio-accumulate in humans and wildlife, and pose risks to human health and the environment. Exposure to POPs can lead to adverse health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems together with greater susceptibility to disease. WHO and UNEP summary studies highlighted that there is still a large lack in the appropriate assessment of POPs for the global impact on diseases caused by chemicals
Appropriate substitution of POPs by safer alternatives, chemical and non-chemical, is the best and most effective way to eliminate them from articles and products and to reduce and prevent environmental contamination and human health problems. In the Convention, and in the present document, the term “alternative” is used to denote a chemical, material, product, product design, system, production process or strategy that can replace listed persistent organic pollutants or candidate chemicals, or materials, products, product designs, systems, production processes or strategies that rely on listed persistent organic pollutants or candidate chemicals, while maintaining an acceptable level of efficacy.
The Stockholm Convention contains several provisions on information related to alternatives:
- • Pursuant to Article 9 each Party to the Convention is to facilitate or undertake the exchange of information relevant to “alternatives to persistent organic pollutants, including information relating to their risks as well as to their economic and social costs”;
- • Under Article 10 each Party, within its capabilities, is to promote and facilitate “development and implementation, especially for women, children and the least educated, of educational and public awareness programmes on persistent organic pollutants … and on their alternatives”. Such programmes may include the use of safety data sheets, reports, mass media and other means of communication, and may establish information centres at the national and regional levels;
- • According to Article 11, Parties, within their capabilities, are to “encourage and/or undertake appropriate research, development, monitoring and cooperation pertaining to persistent organic pollutants and, where relevant, to their alternatives and to candidate persistent organic pollutants”.
The use of alternative at the same time is the best approach for 2) Prevention – citing emphasised and enrolled in Article 3.3 and Article 3.4 of the Convention:
- • Article 3.3: ”Each Party that has one or more regulatory and assessment schemes for new pesticides or new industrial chemicals shall take measures to regulate with the aim of preventing the production and use of new pesticides or new industrial chemicals which, taking into consideration the criteria in paragraph 1 of Annex D, exhibit the characteristics of persistent organic pollutants.”
- • Article 3.4: “Each Party that has one or more regulatory and assessment schemes for pesticides or industrial chemicals shall, where appropriate, take into consideration within these schemes the criteria in paragraph 1 of Annex D when conducting assessments of pesticides or industrial chemicals currently in use.”
This report aims at assisting Parties and others in their implementation by providing a compilation of information on alternatives to POPs in current uses. The chemicals considered in this review are polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and related substances, DDT, lindane, endosulfan, and PCBs. The POP Review Committee (POPRC) has developed the “Guidance on considerations related to alternatives and substitutes for listed persistent organic pollutants and candidate chemicals” elaborating the steps of the assessment of alternatives. The current document aim to compile information which supports that the process and steps outlined by the POPRC guidance can be better implemented in practice by the Parties by compiling related relevant information.
This electronic publication therefore presents information on POPs in processes in identified sectors, availability and assessments of alternatives and substitutes to POPs. A great deal of information is already available through the work of the POPRC on alternatives
and several other activities and this report draws upon this existing work. Further work on alternatives conducted by Parties and other governments, by the research community and by industrial stakeholders and public interest NGOs is also included. Furthermore international experts, including country representatives, regional centres and members of the POPRC contributed to this publication and took part in the development process and facilitated the expert dialogue.
The information is compiled in a simple and easily searchable way to make it accessible to Parties (in particular developing countries and countries with economies in transition) and others interested in the substitution of POPs:
- • To add understanding on POPs in articles and products and how to phase out POPs by appropriate substitution and elimination actions.
- • To obtain a simple overview on POPs free/POPs alternatives linking to the available materials developed by the POPRC, activities of Parties, regional centres, industry, public interest NGOs and the research community.
- • To assist developing country Parties and Parties with economies on transition in meeting their obligations under Articles 9 and 10.
- • To provide updates on alternatives where POPRC is not updating information (e.g. on alternatives POP-PBDEs or PCB).
- • To allow easy updates on POPs free/POPs alternatives information.
- • To have a user-friendly easy-to-update source of information that includes POPs in processes in identified sectors, and availability and assessments of alternatives and substitutes to POPs and supply chains. Also on approaches on how to add more information on the use of POPs and alternatives in articles.
- • To present a review of information for Parties to assist them in implementation of their NIPs as well as for a multi stakeholder expert dialogue.
- • To contribute to the protection of workers, downstream users, consumers and the environment.
Information on POPs alternatives and on more environmentally benign solutions:
- • Supports the search for the more environmentally sustainable and safer alternative.
- • Acknowledges that green chemistry is increasingly important as it generates more environmentally sustainable-oriented product solutions and lays the foundations for more sustainable production. Business partners and financiers prefer safer alternatives both to comply with legislative requirements and to protect workers, consumers, downstream users and the environment whilst avoiding potentially expensive litigation and reputational damage.
- • Reduces the amount of toxic chemicals in products and wastes and therefore helps promote more sustainable consumption.
- • Supports the waste management hierarchy and the development of a circular economy as an important component of more sustainable production and consumption. The listing of c-PentaBDE and certain congeners of c-OctaBDE as POPs in the Convention along with the exemption for recycling has revealed the difficult challenges of POPs in global recycling flows and the need to substitute POPs for protection of recycling as an important step towards a circular economy. Recognising that our society has to move towards a circular economy with high levels of recycling there is a particular need for substitution of POPs and other persistent toxic substances in articles and products to ensure the protection of these recycling flows.
This electronic publication is seen as a living document where information on substitutes will be updated when it becomes available e.g. by new documents from the POPRC or by other relevant publications. Examples of good practices are compiled as case studies and could be replicated in different countries.
As there are currently limitations on the information available on POPs in articles and products (see Annex 1 and Annex 2) this publication also includes approaches, strategies and recommendations on how to add more information on the use of POPs and alternatives in articles and products.
Parties and other stakeholders are invited to continuously submit information on substitutes and other approaches to eliminate POPs and in particular POPs in articles for possible consideration and update. Also industries and public interest NGOs are invited to suggest best practice examples for updates when they have more benign alternatives or they became available.
This publication is a second step of the ‘POPs-free initiative’
. This initiative of the Secretariat of the Stockholm Convention was intended to facilitate work on the identification of POPs-free products and to improve the exchange of information on alternatives and substitutes to POPs. An initial pilot project
under the initiative engaged with companies and test products to verify the absence of POPs.
Following the completion of the project and presentation of its outcomes
at the fifth meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention in April 2011, UNEP/SSC sought further opportunities to engage with Parties, industries and other relevant stakeholders to promote innovative approaches in the introduction of POP alternatives and substitutes in products.
 Carpenter (Editor) (2013) Effects of Persistent and Bioactive Organic Pollutants on Human Heath. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.
 The word “substitute” appears once in the Convention (in paragraph (c) of article 5) and both “substitute” and the word “replacement” appear in various other relevant documents and instruments. Both words as so used have substantially the same meaning as the word “alternative” as defined above.
 UNEP (2010). Technical Review of the Implications of Recycling Commercial Pentabromodiphenyl Ether and Commercial Octabromodiphenyl Ether. 6th POPs Review Committee meeting Geneva 11-15. October 2010 (UNEP/POPS/POPRC.6/2).
UNEP (2010) Supporting Document for Technical review of the implications of recycling commercial penta and octabromodiphenyl ethers. 6th POPs Review Committee meeting Geneva 11-15. October 2010 (UNEP/POPS/POPRC.6/INF/6).