Rules for the recycling and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment in the EU

  • The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. This directive aims to increase recycling and to decrease the amount of equipment going to landfill. Its provisions include:
  • Manufacturers and importers must be responsible for financing the collection, treatment, and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment.
  • Distributors must allow consumers to return waste electrical and electronic equipment free of charge.
  • Convenient collection of waste equipment must be provided, with targets for the proportions of waste electrical and electronic equipment to be collected and recycled.
  • The best available treatment and recycling techniques must be used, including at the least, removal of fluids, and provision of storage facilities.
  • Treatment of waste that occurs outside the EU must respect the rules about the shipment of waste, stating that treatment has to be in conditions equivalent to those required by the Directive.
  • Consumers must be informed about environmental effects, collection and recycling arrangements and product contents through information campaigns, at recycling centres and by marking products with the relevant information.

The directive is in accordance with general EU measures on dumping and incineration. Through the “producer pays” principle it is intended to encourage the design of equipment in a way that takes waste management into account.

  • The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive. This aims to prevent the generation of hazardous waste by reducing the quantities of certain substances that equipment may contain.  Products sold in the EU must not contain more than specified limits of various heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium) and brominated flame retardants (polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers). The Directive does not apply to equipment that was put on the market before July 2006, spare parts for such equipment, specific regularly-reviewed uses in which substitutes for the substances are not available or do not have better environmental effects.
  • The Directive on Batteries and Accumulators and Waste Batteries and Accumulators. This aims to increase the separate collection and recycling of spent batteries and accumulators and to decrease the disposal of batteries and accumulators as municipal waste. Its provisions include:
  • Banning batteries and accumulators containing more than specified limits of mercury and cadmium, except for portable batteries and accumulators used in medical equipment, emergency lighting and alarm systems, and cordless power tools (to be reviewed after four years) and for batteries and accumulators used for military or space purposes.
  • Making manufacturers and importers responsible for financing the collection, treatment, and recycling of spent batteries and accumulators.
  • Obliging manufacturers and importers to let consumers return spent batteries and accumulators free of charge.
  • Requiring the provision of convenient collection arrangements, with targets for the proportions of spent batteries and accumulators that are collected and recycled.
  • Prohibiting the disposal of untreated industrial and automotive batteries and accumulators in landfill or by incineration.
  • Requiring use of the best available treatment and recycling techniques, including at the least, the removal of fluids and acids, and providing particular storage facilities.
  • Treatment of waste that occurs outside the EU must respect the rules about the shipment of waste, stating that treatment has to be in conditions equivalent to those required by the Directive.
  • Informing consumers of the environmental effects, collection and recycling arrangements, and product contents of electronic waste through information campaigns, at points-of-sale and by marking products with the relevant information.
  • The Directive on a Framework for Setting Ecodesign Requirements for Energy-Using Products. This defines the principles, conditions and criteria for setting environmental requirements for all products (other than vehicles) using energy from any source. It makes no direct provision for mandatory requirements for specific products; this is done by specific implementing measures following consultations with interested parties. The implementing measures set out the conformity attestation procedures (generally self-declaration by the manufacturer, failing that, the importer) and information to be provided to consumers about minimising environmental effects. Such implementing measures have been, or are being, devised with the highest priority for certain product groups responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The Regulation on the Shipments of Waste. This incorporates in the EU legislation the Basel Convention and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) decision. Its provisions include:
  • Requiring prior written notification of, and consent to, shipments of waste intended for disposal and hazardous or semi-hazardous waste intended for recovery.
  • Requiring certain information alongside shipments of non-hazardous waste intended for recycling.
  • Requiring shipments to be the subject of contracts between the persons responsible for shipping the waste, or having the waste shipped, and the recipients of the waste, with financial guarantees if the waste is subject to the requirement for prior written notification.
  • Requiring the persons responsible for shipping the waste, or having the waste shipped to take back the waste if shipment, recycling or disposal cannot be completed as intended, or if shipment is illegal for reasons due to them.
  • Requiring the recipients to recycle or dispose of the waste if shipment is illegal for reasons due to them.
  • Banning the mixing of waste during shipment.
  • Requiring appropriate information to be made available to the general public.
  • Prohibiting exports of hazardous waste intended for recycling, except to countries that are party to the Basel Convention, are subject to the OECD decision, or have a bilateral agreement with the EU.
  • Prohibiting exports of waste intended for disposal, except to counties in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that are party to the Basel Convention.

It applies to imports of waste intended for recycling or disposal the same rules as it applies to exports.

Source: Waste electrical and electronic equipment, http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l21210.htm, Disposal of spent batteries and accumulators, http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l21202.htm, Ecodesign for energy-using appliances, http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l32037.htm and Supervision and control of shipments of waste, http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l11022.htm.

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