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WEEE directive could divert 3.3 million ICT products to recycling not reuse

An estimated 3.3 million ICT products could be diverted to recycling rather than reuse in the EU every year because of a lack of clarity in the forthcoming Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, says a digital industry association.

This will contradict the EU’s waste hierarchy, which prioritises reuse over recycling.

In an attempt to resolve the issue, a paper titled ‘The need for a harmonized definition of the term warranty’, has been put forward to the European Commission (EC) by Digital Europe, which represents the digital industry in Europe. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Dell and HP have been working with Digital Europe to support the proposal.

The paper stated: “Non-fully functioning products must be shipped as waste [under Annex VI of the WEEE Directive], even if they are destined for repair and reuse. Certain exceptions apply for “under warranty” and “professional” products.”

We need a technical clarification of the term ‘warranty’.

Mark Dempsey, Hewlett-Packard

Digital Europe said it was seriously concerned that the term “under warranty” was a loophole that would be interpreted by governments of member states in its narrowest possible sense “to apply only to the standard legally required guarantee”.

The trade body estimated that each year 3.3 million ICT products that need shipping for repair, as part of an extended warranty or service repair contract, would not be considered strictly “under warranty” or “professional products”. This means producers will be forced to ship the items as waste.

Mark Dempsey, European waste policy advisor at Hewlett-Packard said: “We’ve made this particular issue known to the Government so that they are aware of it but it’s critical to understand where the European Commission is coming in on this. We need a technical clarification of the term ‘warranty’.”

All members of EU will have to implement it into their national law by February 2014.

‘Economically unviable’

Shipping waste costs approximately 20% more for green listed waste (non-hazardous) and up to 50% more for amber waste (hazardous) compared to shipping as non-waste.

Producers fear that this will render the legitimate repair of affected products economically unviable. This will result in scrapping and recycling of the products rather than shipping and repair, leading to the premature generation of thousands of tons of WEEE each year.

Daniel Seager, take back regulations manager EMEA at HP, told MRW: “Many HP products require specialist equipment to repair. Therefore our repair facilities need to be centralized to be economically viable. This means products for repair need to be shipped.

“The problem is when products not strictly considered ‘under warranty’ need fixing (such as extended warranty and carepacks) - we have to arrange shipment for repair but this is defined as shipping waste and becomes subject to waste shipment regulations. Then there is a danger of the price of reused products becoming too high - the result of waste shipment licencing - and consumers reverting to buying new products rather than repairing.”

Reuse should be maximised

Seager added that one aim of Annex VI is to prevent the illegal shipping of waste. HP said it wanted to minimise shipment of illegal WEEE, but not minimise legitimate reuse.

Jonathan Perry, Dell’s take back compliance consultant for IT, said: “In addition, the exemptions do not cover consumer/dual use equipment - in the new EU WEEE Directive any business equipment that might end up in a consumer waste-stream is considered dual use, such as notebooks, desktops, printers - which means that equipment that is ‘repairable’ could end up unnecessarily going for recycling.”

Perry added: “Dell are collaborating at an industry level [to solve this problem], specifically with ITI in the US and Digital Europe in EMEA.”

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