EC Releases Guidelines on Electronics Recycling

Updated directive seeks to increase the WEEE collection level to 45 percent by 2016.

August 29, 2012
Recycling Today Staff
Electronics Legislation & Regulations

The European Commission (EC) has released new rules for the collection and treatment of obsolete electronics. In a statement, the EC says that its new directive is a step toward environmental protection and a major boost to resource efficiency in Europe.

In a statement, Janez Potocnik, the EC’s commissioner, says, "In these times of economic turmoil and rising prices for raw materials, resource efficiency is where environmental benefits and innovative growth opportunities come together. We now need to open new collection channels for electronic waste and improve the effectiveness of existing ones. I encourage the member states to meet these new targets before the formal deadline."

The directive introduces a collection target of 45 percent of electronic equipment sold that will apply from 2016 and, as a second step from 2019, a target of 65 percent of equipment sold, or 85 percent of electronic scrap generated. As part of the directive, member states will be able to choose one of the two equivalent ways to measure the target they wish to report. From 2018, the directive will be extended from its current restricted scope to all categories of electronic waste, subject to an impact assessment beforehand.

The directive also pays attention to the export of the material. The directive will require exporters to test whether the equipment works, and provide documents on the nature of shipments that could be deemed illegal.

Another expected improvement, according to the EC, is the reduction of administrative burdens through the harmonization of national registration and reporting requirements. Requirements by member states' registers for producers of electronic scrap will be aligned more closely.

Currently only one-third of electrical and electronic scrap in the European Union (EU) is separately collected within the documented system. The existing EU collection target is 4 kilograms of WEEE per capita, representing about 2 million tons per year, out of around 10 million metric tons of WEEE generated annually in the EU. By 2020, it is estimated that the volume of WEEE will increase to 12 million tons. The final target of the new directive, an ambitious 85 percent of all WEEE generated, will ensure that in 2020 around 10 million tons, or roughly 20 kg per capita, will be separately collected in the EU.

By Feb. 14, 2014, member states will have to amend their existing legislation on WEEE and align it with the new directive and the new targets. Consumers can return small e-waste at large retail shops unless existing alternative schemes are shown to be at least as effective. From the date of national transposition onwards, a reversed burden of proof will apply to shipments of used equipment which are suspected to be illegal waste shipments.

Starting in 2016, member states will be required to ensure that 45 percent of electrical and electronic equipment sold in each country is collected.

From 2018, the scope of the directive is widened to include all electrical and electronic equipment.

From 2019, the collection target is raised to 65 percent of electrical and electronic equipment sold, or the alternative measure of 85 percent of WEEE generated.

Some member states will be able to derogate from the new targets for a limited time, where this is justified by a lack of necessary infrastructure or low levels of consumption of electronic equipment. The EC will use the powers given in the new directive to harmonize the frequency of reporting by producers to the national registers, and the format for registration and reporting. The EC will review certain changes agreed with the new directive in order to identify any undesirable effects.

The existing WEEE Directive (Directive 2002/96/EC) has been in force since February 2003. It provides for the creation of collection programs where consumers return their used electronic scrap free of charge. The purpose is to prevent harm to human health and the environment from hazardous substances contained in WEEE, and to increase the recycling and/or re-use of products and materials. In December 2008, the Commission proposed a recast WEEE Directive, and this has now been modified and adopted by the Parliament and the Council.

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