News Article

Call for Legally Binding Quality Standards for E-Waste Recycling

Laws & Regulations

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The WEEE Forum has urged the next EU Commission to deliver legally binding quality standards for the recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment. This Brussels-based European non-profit association speaks for 36 not-for-profit waste electrical and electronic WEEE producer compliance schemes. These schemes come into play for e-bikes and batteries.

Call for Legally Binding Quality Standards for E-Waste Recycling
WEEE Forum pleaded that binding WEEE recycling standards will level playing field across the EU for e-waste matters. – Photo Bike Europe

According to service provider for companies distributing electronic products including e-bikes, “The WEEE Directive requires manufacturers and distributors to register all electronic equipment before market launch in the respective country, to apply for a WEEE number, to regularly report the quantity sold and to ensure that the products are disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. There is no European-wide registration authority; instead manufacturers and distributors must register separately for each country and many specific features need to be taken into account. For example, electronic equipment is not always assigned to the same category of equipment in each country. However, the category determines the cost of registration and disposal.”

Meeting the WEEE collection mark

Earlier this month, during a dinner event hosted by the WEEE Forum, policymakers, government experts and industry leaders discussed how binding WEEE recycling standards will level the playing field across the EU for e-waste matters. WEEE Forum President, Jan Vlak, addressed the event and noted that the current situation is that most Member States of the EU are not on target to meet the 65 percent WEEE collection mark. Illegal practices, such as scavenging, give rise to loss of valuable raw materials and the release of hazardous substances into the environment.

EN 50625 standards for WEEE treatment

Currently up to two thirds of WEEE is not being reported as properly collected and treated. The EN 50625 standards for WEEE treatment, a reference for the industry, address those challenges. President Vlak stressed that, in order to create a truly level playing field in the EU, compliance with EN 50625 should be made mandatory for all WEEE treatment facilities in the EU. Treatment of WEEE outside the EU should take place in conditions that are equivalent to those applicable in the EU.

Mark Demesmaeker, Belgian Member of the European Parliament working on implementing the circular economy in Europe, agreed with Jan Vlak’s statement and added that it is time for an implementing act towards binding WEEE standards.

This call to action towards the European Commission, as mandated by Article 8.5 of Directive 2012/19/EU, is based on the importance of quality standards and the need to avoid distorting recycling markets and hindering private investments in the field of recovery of (critical) raw materials.

Several Member States, such as the Netherlands, Ireland and France, have made the standards legally binding and put the responsibility of compliance in the sector on the whole ecosystem and e-waste value chain. Those markets now benefit from legally enforced uniformity with equal requirements across the sector.

Legal background

The WEEE Directive (2012/19/EC, formerly 2002/96/EC) came into force in Europe on 13th August 2012. The EU member states were obliged to transpose it into national law. The revised version of 2012 replaced the previous Directive 2002/96/EC. The aim of the WEEE Directive is to prevent waste from electrical equipment, or to reduce such waste by reusing and recycling it. For this reason, the overriding goal is to increase the percentage of electrical appliances taken back in the end of their life in order to protect the environment. The law requires manufacturers, distributors or importers of electronic equipment to contribute to the cost of disposing of it (extended producer responsibility or responsibility for taking back and disposing of electrical appliances). For this purpose, each country has set up its own national register schemes. Before they start to sell their products, manufacturers are obliged to register there and apply for a WEEE number. Often, they also have to join a recognised compliance system. Since different countries have implemented the WEEE Directive in different ways, the registration process differs from country to country and companies need to take into account many specific features.


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