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Given an annual 9% growth in sales of electronics globally, the recovery of WEEE is vital to the EU and a revision to regulations aimed to kick start a circular economy, with re-use and recovery encompassed in a framework of recycling activities would ensure a thriving waste management sector. However, during 2012, only one third of WEEE was properly reported and recycled inside the EU, with the remainder either ending up in Landfill or being illegally exported.
In recognising this, the European Parliament voted to raise the collection target for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) from 65% to 85% in Brussels on October 4th 2011. Due to roll out throughout Europe in 2019, this would have been a significant increase over the previous 45% recovery rate. Most notably, the targets were to cover both Business to business WEEE and Business to Consumer WEEE.
How Quantities are calculated:
Electrical and electronic goods placed on the market by manufacturers or producers are averaged out over a 2 year rolling period and multiplied by the relevant percentage to get the volume that must be recovered each year. The volumes must be achieved through the recycling and re-use of WEEE recovered from Designated Collection Facilities.
The Original Vote:
The parliament’s environment committee originally voted overwhelmingly in favour for the collection target to come into effect by 2016, as part of a recast of the WEEE Directive. However, this was later rolled back to 2019 before being shelved. New targets of 45% in 2014 and 65% in 2019 were then agreed, with a rolling increase of 5% per annum in between those years. The targets, which have now been ratified and adopted by member states, are based on the total amount (by weight) of WEEE generated in each state.
A separate reuse target of 5% has also been endorsed, but disagreements still remained, as late as 2014, between the European Parliament and environment ministers in the EU Council over how precisely the targets should be calculated. However, as highlighted by other industry members, a WEEE reuse target would be of benefit as there is currently no way to quantify it as part of national reporting procedures. The target of 5% has been slated by some though as being inadequate and an “afterthought”.
The New Targets:
Targets laid down in the revised WEEE Directive are:
Following on from these changes to rules, the Department of Business, Industry and Skills set specific targets for the recovery of WEEE in each of the 13 categories (image right). However, as emphasised by the Environment Agency, some items are exempt from the WEEE Directive. These include:
In effect, the WEEE Regulations apply to any equipment that requires electrical current – from batteries or mains – to perform its primary function. It is important to note though that if the electrical function is secondary to the products purpose, then it does not fall under the WEEE directive.
Remaining Loopholes and Under-Reporting
Other loopholes remain, including the absence of a harmonised approach to registering and reporting e-waste across Europe. Concerns persist that under current proposals, a substantial amount of WEEE still risks being ‘leaked’ out of the system.
The European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufacturers’ (CECED) director general, Luigi Meli, said that while the recast “provides a real opportunity to deliver a directive that works in practice”, a lot of WEEE is still escaping out of the system.
“It is not being returned to producer or producer-financed WEEE treatment schemes for correct processing and treatment. This is because e-waste has value and in the context of increasing resource scarcity, this value is increasing. ” However, the statements fail to reflect the true nature of the industry, with includes the repair and refurbishment of WEEE, export of WEEE and complexity of the system as a whole.
He added that other operators who handle WEEE in addition to those officially designated as WEEE producers must also be covered by the revised legislation, if the higher recycling target is to be met.
About the Author: Richard Anthony Johnson
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