Nanomaterials are increasingly used in a variety of products such as sunscreen, cosmetics, antibacterial textiles, lithium ion batteries, glass coating and tennis rackets. Nanomaterials are utilised in a range of applications due to their significantly enhanced properties, enabled by their nano-scale structure. However, these special chemical and physical characteristics are also associated with possible risks to environmental health and safety. Very little is known about the way nanomaterials can potentially impact waste management. Waste containing these materials is currently managed along with conventional waste without sufficient knowledge of the associated risks and impacts on the environment.
Since 2011, the OECD’s Working Party on Resource Productivity and Waste (WPRPW) began an effort to understand the emerging issue of waste containing nanomaterials and to attract attention to the potential risks that are linked to the presence of nanomaterials in waste treatment processes. In order to begin to understand these risks better, a report has been developed that discusses the current knowledge about four specific waste treatment processes: recycling, incineration, landfilling and wastewater treatment. These reports are compiled in the forthcoming OECD publication “Nanomaterials in Waste Streams".
The science in this area is rapidly evolving and the OECD is planning to pursue its efforts in this area in close co-operation with the Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (WPMN) and the Working Party on Bio-, Nano- and Converging Tech (BNCT) as well as other organisations at the international and national level, including governments, research institutes, and academic circles.
The report Nanomaterials in Waste Streams - Current Knowledge on Risks and Impacts (2016) provides a literature review on four specific waste treatment processes (recycling, incineration, landfilling and wastewater treatment). While state-of-the-art waste treatment facilities may collect, divert or eliminate nanomaterials from these waste streams, the report concludes that knowledge gaps associated with their final disposal remain, underlining the need for further research in this area.
OECD Workshop on Recent Scientific Insights into the Fate and Risks of Waste Containing Nanomaterials, November 2016, Paris France - Agenda
OECD Workshop on Safe Management of Nanowaste, May 2012, Munich, Germany - Agenda