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Europe calls for tougher TV recycling regs

The European Commission (EC) has resurrected plans to “correct regulatory failures” on electronic screens in order to make it easier to recover rare metals and recycle plastic.

Proposals requiring manufacturers to produce an ‘end-of-life report’, initially drawn up in 2012, have been put back on the table in response to sharp growth in flat screen televisions and monitors.

Manufacturers would also have to declare the recyclability index for plastic parts heavier than 25g and give instructions on how products can be disassembled and recycled.

Around 62 million televisions were sold in EU member states in 2011, with a strong demand for ever-larger screens.

European officials have long warned that regulations needed to catch up with “unprecedented” technological changes as manufacturers phased out cathode ray tubes in favour of flat screen plasma and LCD displays.

A review of the Ecodesign Directive and rules governing energy efficiency, conducted by an EC consultative body in 2012, found there were “regulatory gaps and market failures”.

The Ecodesign Consultation Forum, which includes manufacturers and membership bodies such as Plastics Europe, criticised the lack of rules on recovery of rare materials, including indium, and on the recyclability of common metals and plastics.

It also wanted to see the rules extended to other electronic screens, such as computer monitors and mobile phones.

A consultation document based on the 2012 review has now been re-launched.

It said: “Using recycled plastics is one way of ‘closing the loop’, facilitating a more circular economy and ensuring that resources recovered from waste products are partially used in new products…

“Recycling is more difficult and less efficient if waste plastics are contaminated with hazardous substances. Therefore there is a clear need to design them out and ensure minimal residual contamination of products…

“The proposed requirements should result in marginal costs to manufacturers with possibly relevant cost reduction and improved efficiency for the recycling industry.”

The consultation forum is meeting in Brussels on 10 December to discuss the proposals.

Keith Patterson, group managing director of the Electrical Waste Recycling Group, told MRW: “Overall, this is a major step forward, with the EU taking a much more holistic view in regard to the total environmental impact of electronic products at all stages of the product’s life cycle. EWRG fully support these efforts to improve the recyclability of hazardous waste streams such as display products.

“However, the proposals could go further and, for example, extend to the identification and quantification of critical and strategic resources such as certain precious or rare earth elements contained in a product and that would provide incentive for a recycler to design processes specifically aimed at the recovery of less obvious but equally valuable and important resources.”

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