The new targets for collecting electronic waste backed by the European Parliament are set to cause some trouble with reluctant EU member states.
Electronic waste is a number of different types of waste streams. It can include old computers, TV’s etc. The European Parliament and the 27 EU member states are set for difficult negotiations over the recast of the bloc’s electronic waste directive as some European Parliament members insist on ambitious targets for collecting and recycling discarded fridges, phones and other e-waste than the member states can accept. The European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted yesterday on its second reading recommendation on the recast of the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, aiming at toughening existing rules on electrical and electronic equipment.
Currently, a flat-rate annual target of 4kg per person is applied even though the EU executive estimates that each European currently generates 17-20 kg of e-waste per year.
The Commission has suggested a collection target of 65% of the average weight of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market over the two previous years but others say targets should be based on the actual e-waste generated, with 85% to be collected by 2016.
Depending on the waste category, Parliament members also say that 70-85% of e-waste should be recovered and 50-75% recycled. They propose a separate 5% reuse target so that more functional goods get a new lease of life instead of being scrapped.
Many smaller e-waste items, such as light bulbs, mobile phones and electronic toothbrushes are thrown away with other rubbish even though they contain harmful or valuable substances.
To tackle the problem, Parliament members say consumers should be allowed to hand back very small appliances to all electronics retailers — except the smallest — for free, regardless of whether the customer buys a new product or not.
The lawmakers also want to broaden the reach of the EU’s e-waste law by bringing all types of electrical and electronic equipment under the scope of the rules unless explicitly excluded, instead of applying the current restricted list of equipment concerned.
EU member states also believe that the scope should be widened but not until six years after the entry into force of the recast — or around 2018.
The Parliament report adopted yesterday also suggests forbidding any e-waste exports to countries outside the OECD and only allow export of non-functioning products within OECD countries if there is a guarantee that this product will be fixed and able to be re-used.
Some estimate as much as 50 million tons of E-waste are produced each year. The USA discards 30 million computers each year and 100 million phones are disposed of in Europe each year. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 15-20% of e-waste is recycled, the rest of these electronics go directly into landfills and incinerators.
According to a report by the UN titled, Recycling – from E-Waste to Resources, the amount of e-waste being produced – including mobile phones and computers – could rise by as much as 500 percent over the next decade in some countries, such as India. The United States is the world leader in producing electronic waste, tossing away about 3 million tons each year. China already produces about 2.3 million tons (2010 estimate) domestically, second only to the United States. And, despite having banned e-waste imports, China remains a major e-waste dumping ground for developed countries.
Article by Andy Soos, appearing courtesy ENN.
photo: Bert van Dijk