The European Parliament has approved proposed updates to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive (2002/96/EC), introducing new legally binding collection targets and tighter export controls
Under the new Directive, all European member states will, by 2016, have to collect 45 tonnes of WEEE for every 100 tonnes of electronics put on sale three years before.
In 2019, these targets rise to either 65 tonnes for every 100 tonnes of new goods or 85% of total WEEE being generated annually. The European Commission estimates the new targets will ensure that 10 million tonnes of WEEE are collected, reused and recycled each year, five times the amount under the existing Directive.
Alongside the tougher bloc-wide collection targets, other changes will include new rules allowing consumers to return mobile phones and other small devices to large retailers without having to buy a new product.
MEPs also approved changes aimed at tackling illegal shipments of WEEE overseas, by swapping responsibility for proving the content of shipments from customs officials to exporters. This will require companies to provide documents on the nature of the cargo and run tests to prove it is not waste.
European commissioner Janez Potocnik welcomed the MEPs’ decision, saying the new Directive will play an important role in encouraging resource efficiency.
“Proper treatment of WEEE is important to prevent harm to human health and the environment, and its systematic collection is the precondition for recycling valuable raw materials,” he said. “In challenging times of economic change and rising prices for raw materials, resource efficiency is where environmental benefits and innovative growth opportunities come together.”
Potocnik’s assertions were supported by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which estimates that if governments and industry do nothing to address energy use and metal shortages, $2 trillion-worth of output will be put at risk by 2030.
Using the consumer goods sector as an example, the WEF concludes that if manufacturers improve their use of steel and increase recycling rates they could save $46.9 billion by 2030, while greater energy efficiency could create further savings of $37 billion.