New WEEE Rules: Is The EU Talking Rubbish? by Peter Judge
It’s good to see the European Union making new recycling rules but the new WEEE directive seems to bear little relation to reality, and there is no plan for actually implementing it on the ground.
The updated European Union Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive was passed in June, nearly ten years on from the first WEEE Directive in 2003. It sets some pretty hefty targets: In three years’ time, 75 percent of e-waste must be recovered, and 65 percent of it recycled. And by 2020 85 percent of the European Union’s tech rubbish should be reclaimed.
Also, when it comes into force in the various European countries, it will give people the right to take all small electrical goods back to the shop where they were bought, to be recycled.
When will this actually happen? The instructions are to enact it in every country by February 2014, but anyone who watched the progress of the first WEEE Directive will know there will be some dragging of heels before this one actually comes into force.
The goals are admirable, but things aren’t yet joined up. For instance, the best way to remove goods form the waste stream is to re-use them, That means refurbishing them and passing them onto a new user - presumably for money. But that can fall foul of other European laws governing what goods can be sold, and what powers a manufacturer has to restrict the re-sale of equipment it made.
“A month after these changes were announced and with the rules now coming into effect, member states are still craving clarity as to what needs to be implemented and how they should work towards such lofty targets,” says Askar Sheibani. As CEO of IT and telecoms repair company Comtek, he’s been working for years to get more kit re-used. It’s his business. But he knows from bitter experience how many barriers there are in the process.
He is concerned that the European Trademark law may be used to limit the way in which second hand goods can be sold. It may cause green thinkers a lot of grief, he says.
“With such an extensive decree on what needs to be achieved, the EU has provided few tools and barely any guidance to truly reduce the staggering amount of waste sent to landfill, and illegally exported to developing countries,” he warns.. Four years is not a lot of time to implement such an ambitious project, he adds.
Without some actual thinking on how to implement them, these targets are just European hot air.