Some not so WEEE changes to EU legislation

A forthcoming EU recast of legislation regarding waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) will increase recycling targets – so it is time to take positive action in preparation.

The new directive means that, from 2019, there will be an increased target to recycle 85% of WEEE generated, or 65% of such equipment sold in the three years up to 2019. Exporters of used electrical equipment will also face tougher requirements.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is to launch a consultation into the proposed changes set out in the WEEE recast, published in July 2012. This will look at how to bring the UK into line with the terms of the recast, which affects all European Union member states from January 2014, and reduce businesses’ costs in complying with the demands of the new legislation.

It seems that the waste management sector may already be making headway towards the target, because a report claims that a third of WEEE in Europe is currently being recycled outside producer take-back schemes by third party collectors, and is therefore not being counted towards targets. The report has been prepared by the European Electronics Recyclers Association (EERA), which represents 36 WEEE recyclers in Europe, along with Lighting Europe, a lighting manufacturing body, and DIGITALEUROPE, a technology group. It urges European Governments to bring in mandatory schemes to ensure that all WEEE is properly recorded and reported, and targets are met.

Since another third of WEEE is currently collected and reported, the third that is not recorded could have a major impact on the figures if the report’s recommendations are acted upon. An independent register is suggested in the report:

“For protection of the treatment operators’ interests, the reporting should happen in a secure environment. Therefore it is proposed that treatment operators that comply with the quality standards, report data to an independent register, which may be financed by the producers.”

Recycling Lives welcomes the EERA and its fellow organisations’ recommendation for increased reporting. We are astonished that such a large amount of WEEE recycling might go unreported, and agree that systems need to be put in place to account for everything. But at least the unaccounted-for WEEE is probably being recycled rather than going to landfill.

At Recycling Lives, we have developed a specialist WEEE processing system to deal with the large amounts of such equipment that is generated every year. The WEEE is separated and sorted into different streams of ferrous, non-ferrous, and non-metal materials – and the vast majority is diverted from landfill.

All our operations are fully compliant with EU legislation, so we are ready for next January’s changes, and we urge everyone in the waste management sector to be prepared to implement whatever is needed to meet the demands of the WEEE recast. We will ensure that our staff, many of whom are individuals supported by the Recycling Lives social welfare charity, are provided with all the training and guidance necessary to ensure best practice.