Tighter EU rules to boost e-waste recycling
E-waste (i.e. waste electrical and electronic equipment, or WEEE) is one the fastest growing waste streams, and it offers substantial opportunities in terms of making secondary raw materials available on the market.
Systematic collection and proper treatment is a precondition for recycling materials like gold, silver, copper and rare metals in used TVs, laptops and mobile phones.
These metals are needed for manufacturing several gadgets and rare earth metals are critical for manufacturing renewable energy technologies such as solar panels, storage systems, batteries for electrical vehicles etc.
"In these times of economic turmoil and rising prices for raw materials, resource efficiency is where environmental benefits and innovative growth opportunities come together," said Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik.
"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."
Ambitious collection targets
Currently only one third of electrical and electronic waste in the EU is separately collected within the documented system.
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 waste generated.
Member states will be able to choose which one of these 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 existing EU collection target is 4 kg of WEEE per capita, representing about 2 million tons per year, out of around 10 million tonnes 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.
Tools fight illegal export
The Directive gives member states the tools to fight the illegal export of waste more effectively. Illegal shipments of WEEE are a serious problem, especially when they are disguised as legal shipments of used equipment to circumvent EU waste treatment rules.
It will oblige exporters to test whether equipment works or not, and provide documents on the nature of shipments that could be thought illegal.
Another expected improvement is the reduction of administrative burdens through harmonization of national registration and reporting requirements. Requirements by Member States' registers for producers of e-waste will now be aligned more closely.
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