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seeba Fact Sheet
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

 

Nearly 1 million tonnes of WEEE are discarded each year in the UK alone. WEEE constitutes at least 4% of the municipal waste stream within the EU, increasing by up to 5% per year and growing by around 3 times higher than the general growth in municipal solid waste. Since also more than 90% of WEEE is landfilled, incinerated or recovered without pre-treatment the EU has recognised a particular threat to the environment from EEE if not properly disposed of e.g. leaching of heavy metal content. WEEE is therefore one of the EU's priority waste streams.

A number of individual EU Member States have introduced, or are planning to introduce domestic legislation on WEEE - often based upon producer responsibility concepts. In fact, there are moves around the world, stretching from Asia through to North America, to introduce producer responsibility-based or other measures for dealing with WEEE. In addition, various voluntary WEEE take-back schemes are being developed, by industry associations or by individual companies (for example: Mobile Takeback UK launched in 2001 by a consortium of manufacturers and retailers).

Because of the threat of WEEE pollution to the municipal waste stream, and because of the likelihood that the introduction of differing WEEE recovery regimes across EU Member States would lead to distortions of the Single Market and a non-level playing field, the EU Commission decided to propose WEEE recovery legislation for the EU. An official proposal was tabled by the European Commission on 13th June 2000. The legislation has been controversial, engendering opposition from US manufacturers in particular, but it has had strong political support and passed into EU law in February of 2003..

In addition to legislation covering the disposal of WEEE, the EU has introduced legislation dealing with bans / phase-outs of certain heavy metals (e.g. lead) and flame retardants (Restrictions on the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances aka "RoHS"). This too has been controversial, not least because of arguments over whether the chemicals in question could be safely and practically (and cost-effectively) phased out by the proposed deadline and whether the available substitutes were acceptable.

One of the key issues has been the indirect promotion of the use of eco-design to deal with the WEEE / RoHS problem. The purpose of producer responsibility legislation is to place responsibility on producers who therefore are in the best position to change the design of the product so as e.g. to facilitate recyclability. It remains to be seen whether the legislation will encourage, or even force eco-design and design for dismantling onto the mainstream agenda in the electronics sector, or whether producers will be allowed to rely on easier and possibly cheaper solutions such as crushing and shredding based recycling methodologies.

Meanwhile, the recycling industry is gearing up for the introduction of the WEEE directive. However, there are concerns within industry about the current strength of the recycling infrastructure within the EU (some countries, such as the UK, are better served than others), the availability of suitable WEEE recycling facilities and most crucially, the creation of a workable collection system for WEEE out of the municipal waste stream.

 

Fact Sheet on Producer Responsibility

Fact Sheet on Land Fill Directive

Fact Sheet on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

Fact Sheet on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive

Fact Sheet on the Restriction on the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in EEE Directive

Fact Sheet on End-of-life Vehicles

Fact Sheet on End-of-life Vehicles Directive

Fact Sheet on Packaging

Arsenic

Bismuth

Cadmium

Chromium 6

Copper

Lead

Mercury

Zinc

 

 

 

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