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Feature: Germany moves to iron out WEEE collection problems

As producers in the UK struggle to make the most of the delayed implementation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, their counterparts in mainland Europe are also still looking for answers when it comes to efficient take-back.

In Germany an estimated 1.1 million tonnes of waste equipment is disposed of each year. Under the Electronic Equipment Act passed in February, consumers can now take their old phones, computers, TVs and fridges to municipal collection points.

The equipment producers must provide local authorities with containers in which the collected waste equipment is then taken for disposal by the producers. How the collection is organised is left up to the local authorities, which can designate collection points and provide additional collections. How these bring-back and collection systems are combined, and how many collection points are to be set up, depends on local conditions and population density.

The BDE Federation of the German Waste Management Industry is one body that expects the Act to provide new impetus for its member companies. In addition, disposal companies are assuming that their work with local authorities will also increase.

In the setting up of collection points, the municipalities are expected to make extensive use of private waste disposal companies.

Despite this clear process, there are still concerns from manufacturers over the interface of these facilities with consumers and future product design.

Speaking at April's IFAT, Dr Mario Muller, of electronics manufacturer Philips, said the issue of small devices may become problematic because it is difficult to recover materials that are broken.

"New logistic recycling paths must be observed and these may cost even more," he said. "From a manufacturer's point of view, we are still on the road to solving this problem."

According to Dr Muller, integration is key to efficient take-back: "Many groups of vendors are getting together to find solutions, but vendors and local authorities must co-operate and define standard containers."

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