E-waste (or WEEE) is one the fastest-growing waste streams and 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. The new European Commission Directive is seen as a clear step forward in terms of environmental protection and a major boost to resource efficiency in Europe.
Environment commissioner Janez Potonik said: “In these times of economic turmoil and rising prices for raw materials, resource efficiency is where environmental benefits and innovative growth opportunities come together. 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.”
The Directive introduces a collection target of 45% of electronic equipment sold that will apply from 2016 and, as a second step from 2019, a target of 65 % of equipment sold, or 85 % of electronic waste generated. Member states will be able to choose which of the 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 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 disguised as legal shipments of used equipment to circumvent EU waste treatment rules. The measure 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 harmonisation of national registration and reporting requirements. Requirements by Member States’ registers for producers of e-waste will now be aligned more closely.