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European Commission revamps EU electrical equipment recycling regime

The failure of the European Unions (EU) 2004 waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive to promote recycling has led the European Commission to propose revamping this legislation.

Brussels has admitted the existing system - aimed at forcing manufacturers to provide free disposal facilities - has proved complex to administer and included unrealistic targets. This was 4kg of electrical waste per year per person in the EU. However, in some countries this was too much; in others, too little. Now the Commission is proposing mandatory national collection targets equal to 65% of the average weight of electrical and electronic equipment sold over the two previous years in an EU country. Also, recycling and recovery targets would also be raised 5% and would henceforth range from 85% to 55% - depending on the materials. This would also include the re-use of whole appliances. Meanwhile, the Commission wants to slash complex red tape that has burdened the system.

EU environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "This is an opportunity for EU companies to innovate and have access to valuable raw materials.
In a report, the Commission said: Experience with the first years of implementation of the WEEE directive has indicated technical, legal and administrative problems. The revised system would generate: Reduced costs through the removal of all unnecessary administrative burdens, without lowering the level of environmental protection.

Looking at existing failures, a Commission note said four years after the WEEE directive was approved, only about a third of electrical and electronic waste is treated in line with the law, with the other two thirds being landfilled, potentially to sub-standard treatment sites in or outside the EU. This lost Europe valuable secondary raw materials, which was especially worrisome since inadequately treated products pose major environmental and health risks. It added: The illegal trade to non-EU countries also continues to be widespread.

 Image: WEEE

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