Five things to know about the POPs legislation update

As of 1 January 2023, The Environment Agency have banned the disposal of upholstered furniture containing Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) from recycling or landfill. This means that your office chairs, sofas, footstools, and futons now require additional control measures to reduce the risk of POPs entering the environment, with the only approved method being incineration.

So, why can’t your office chairs go in your regular general waste bin? Have a seat and find out five facts about the legislation update to keep your waste management ahead of the curve.

What are POPs?

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are highly toxic chemical substances that present a serious health threat to both humans and wildlife. In soft furnishings, POPs are present in the form of brominated fire retardants. POPs can accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and other living organisms for long periods of time and are resistant to degradation, which can cause harmful effects to the environment and disrupt normal biological functions.

Why the change in legislation?

An investigation conducted by The Environmental Agency confirmed that there is a widespread presence of POPs in domestic seating items and that any seat covered in fabric contains POPs well over the threshold limits. When these items become waste, strict measures must be taken to ensure that POPs are not released into the environment and will not contaminate other waste or recycling materials.

How to manage POPs in waste?

Domestic seating containing POPs cannot be recycled, landfilled, or prepared for reuse. It is highly imperative that these toxic chemicals are destroyed and removed from use. Upholstered furniture must be disposed of via incineration to protect the ecosystem and human health. Energy from Waste plants operate at 1000°c, effectively destroying the flame retardants found in domestic seating. This process includes the shredding of waste, with additional control measures to reduce the risk of POPs entering the environment.

Which items can and can’t you throw out?

Waste upholstered domestic seating that do not contain POPs can be identified and stored separately, however, the only way to do this is by using x-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanners. These scanners are highly expensive and require specially trained operators to use them. Therefore, for reasons of simplification, all upholstered furniture is considered POPs.

POPs can be present in the furniture’s fabric, and a lower concentration can be found in the foam filling. These materials must be sent for incineration.

Below are examples of up-holstered furniture covered under POPs:

Items that are not considered POPs are:

  • Mattresses

  • Curtains

  • Carpets

  • Blinds

  • Beds

You must avoid mixing your waste upholstered domestic seating containing POPs with other waste materials during production, storage, collection and treatment. Ensure that you store POPs furniture in a way that prevents damaging it, releasing POPs or contaminating it with other waste.

Will POPs waste contaminate entire loads?

The Environment Agency requires that if any waste contains upholstered furniture, the entire load must be handled as POPs waste. Medical evidence has linked POPs to serious human illnesses and disabilities. Assess your loads before disposal and take all reasonable steps to avoid mixing POPs waste with other waste materials.

Grundon is committed to working with customers to manage their obligations with the legislation update and will provide additional advice to ensure that your waste is managed in strict compliance with EA regulations.

For more information on the EA’s Guidelines for managing POPs in waste, please visit GOV.UK

For further guidance from Grundon, please email