February 23, 2012 • Current Events, Sustainability

Don’t Throw That Cell Phone Away in the EU

by Rose Shaver

A new law updating the 2003 Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) was recently passed by the European Parliament to curb the dumping electronic goods such as mobile phones, computers and TV sets in landfills. According to EU officials, only about 33% of e-waste is disposed of properly and is often exported illegally to poorly-equipped developing countries, where e-waste recyclers are regularly exposed to health hazards.

The new directive is expected to be formally approved by the 27 EU governments soon and become law in 2014. It requires EU member states in 2016 to collect 45 metric tons of e-waste for every 100 metric tons of electronic goods put on sale during the previous three years. By 2019, the target will rise to 65 tons or 85% of total e-waste generated. Ten states, mostly in the former communist bloc which joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, will have until 2021 to reach the new target so that they have sufficient time to improve their waste disposal facilities.

The new law will oblige large shops selling electrical goods to accept small e-waste items from customers (such as mobile phones) even if customers do not buy a replacement. For larger items such as washing machines, manufacturers will be responsible for the recycling. To prevent illegal exporting of e-waste, the law will also require exporters to provide proper documentation for goods being shipped for repair or re-use.

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