Here’s a simple guide to rules and regulations relating to e-waste. We don’t think its good enough, so at the end we’ve provided our 10 point list of what we think should be happening.
The European Union has a series of directives and regulations that aims to increase the recovery, reuse and recycling of e-waste. EU legislation that promotes the collection and recycling of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE Directive 2002/96/EC) and restricts the use of hazardous substances in such equipment (RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC) has been in force since February 2003.
Both were amended in 2008 and in 2011, a new RoHS Directive 2011/65/EU was recast and agreed. UKlegislation must adopt the new obligations by January 2013. Negotiations on the WEEE recast are still underway with several areas of disagreement yet to be resolved.
These laws are intended to regulate the legitimate trade of used, working equipment and to promote the safe recycling of used, broken equipment.
- WEEE (Waste Electronic and Electrical equipment) Directive 2002/96/EC
- RoHS (Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances) Directive 2011/65/EU
- Other important WEEE related legislation
In reality, despite strong regulation, only a third of e- waste (33%) is reported to be collected and treated according to legislation in the EU. The rest goes to landfill (13%) and to sub-standard treatment sites in or outside the EU (54%) and the illegal trade and export of e-waste to non-EU countries is still widespread.An estimated 75% of e-waste generated in the EU, equivalent to 8-9 million tonnes a year, is unaccounted for.
The collection target of 4 kg per person per year is inadequate for the amount of e-waste generated in the EU. Each person inWestern Europegenerates between 14 to 24 kg of e-waste each year.
Despite EU WEEE regulations, the illicit export of e-wastecontinues to cause terrible environmental and human consequences. Many small businesses are unaware of compliance and the global quantities of WEEE seem to be grossly underestimated. Comprehensive data is unknown and no quantified figures have been found about the actual amount of recovered WEEE. Consumers are unaware of ‘take-back’ schemes and confused by what to do with their used electronics.
UKregulation gives producers collective responsibility for WEEE. This has watered down the original intention of the Directive and may even penalise environmentally responsible producers. Many companies are not aware of their obligations. The Environment Agency estimates that 3200 producers are registered with a compliance scheme, but does not know how many remain unregistered.