Study on the Product Lifecycles, Waste Recycling and the Circular Economy for Nanomaterials

A new report entitled “Study on the Product Lifecycles, Waste Recycling and the Circular Economy for Nanomaterials” has been published on the EUON (European Union Observation for Nanomaterials) website which is hosted and maintained by ECHA.

Link to download the report published in November 2021 ( website.

This study updates and expands the document “Nanomaterials in Waste Streams – Current Knowledge on Risks and Impacts” published by OECD in 2016 by covering 276 publications, including books, research reports, research and review papers, databases, and other web resources. 

The research topics have been addressed in three thematic sections of the study:

  • “Nanomaterials in Waste”, 
  • “Nanomaterials in Waste Management Processes”, and 
  • “Nanomaterials in the circular economy”.

This publication gives an overview of the current data available about existing nanomaterials on the EU market and shows the difficulty to give quantitative data of nanomaterials on the European market and in different waste streams. The need to develop public datasets containing information about nanomaterials and their presence in products to promote regulatory decision-making and the advancement of scientific research is clearly underlined. Although substantial progress has also been made in the characterisation and measurement of nanomaterials, challenges remain:

  • the distinction between natural, incidental and manufactured nanomaterials, 
  • the characterisation of nanomaterials in complex media, and 
  • the specific quantification issues.

The lack of quantitative information regarding the uses and characteristics of nanomaterials in manufactured products creates some challenges highlighted in the expert consultation. Therefore, work on improving detection, characterisation and quantification of nanomaterials should be continued. The analysis showed that the definition of nano waste and specific provisions for nanomaterials are missing from the Waste Framework Directive Management of Nanomaterials. 

In this context, guidance on managing waste from manufacturing and processing of nanomaterials is an important step to facilitate practical actions in managing nano waste. However, only one document provides until now some general harmonised guidelines for the management and disposal of waste from the manufacturing and processing of manufactured nano-objects (CEN/TS 17275:2018) [1]. This gap has been recently identified by ISO TC 229/WG3 Roadmap with the addition of a potential new project to harmonise tiered approaches and to develop guidance on recycling. A survey will be conducted within WG3 to consider the project relative to the waste management of nanomaterials.

Finally, the ECHA study found that while scientists are actively researching applications for nanomaterials that would aid in building a circular economy, much of the research remains at the academic level at this stage. Closer collaboration and exchange of ideas between the researchers and the industry is necessary to conclude on the needs for nanotechnology solutions and launch appropriate research initiatives.

To complement and validate the findings, twenty interviews were conducted with experts from academia, industry, international associations, national authorities, and non-profit organisations. C. Chivas-Joly [2] contributed to the discussion through her interview and provided some recommendations regarding the issue of metrological characterisation in complex media and the need to compile, harmonise and communicate on the available information. 

These conclusions are similar to the ones taken from NanoFabNet discussion with key stakeholders over the last 18 months, which show the urgent need to gather and share good practices (Challenges & Opportunities in the Validation, Harmonisation & Standardisation of industrial-scale Nanofabrication)[3]. 

The future implementation of a digital database of harmonised guidance and standards through the NanoFabNet Hub will enable the wider dissemination of such key documents.


Publications cited

  1. Chivas-Joly, C., Longuet, C., Pourchez, J., Leclerc, L., Sarry, G., & Lopez-Cuesta, J. M. (2019). Physical, morphological and chemical modification of Al-based nanofillers in by-products of incinerated nanocomposites and related biological outcome. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 365, 405-412.
  2. Ounoughene, G., Chivas-Joly, C., Longuet, C., Le Bihan, O., Lopez-Cuesta, J. M., & Le Coq, L. (2019). Evaluation of nanosilica emission in polydimethylsiloxane composite during incineration. Journal of hazardous materials, 371, 415-422.
  3. Ounoughene, G., LeBihan, O., Debray, B., Chivas-Joly, C., Longuet, C., Joubert, A., & Le Coq, L. (2017, May). Thermal disposal of waste containing nanomaterials: first investigations on a methodology for risk management. In Journal of Physics: Conference Series (Vol. 838, No. 1, p. 012024). IOP Publishing.


Written by: Carine CHIVAS-JOLY (LNE) & Georges FAVRE (LNE)