Rhein on Energy and Climate

After two years of intensive debating in the Council and EP the EU has cleared the path for more comprehensive recycling of the rising volume of electric and electronic waste.

By 2020, 85 per cent of the electric and electronic equipment (refrigerators, mobile phones, TVs, radios, computers, vacuum cleaners etc.) sold in the 27 member states will be subject to mandatory collection and re-cycling through retailers or other forms of collection. This target will be reached incrementally to allow for the necessary adaptations.

The existing directive 2002/96 had imposed a minimum collection rate of 4 kg/capita without taking into account steadily rising consumption and different consumption levels between member states. Considering inadequate compliance by member states the effective recycling did not exceed one third of the equipment sold in 2010.

The new EU legislation is part of an overall strategy to enhance European resource efficiency and make Europe globally more competitive. It reflects rising awareness about resource scarcity and raw material prices, especially in the electronic sector, where European dependence on rare earths, largely controlled by Chinese companies, is being painfully felt.

Though Europe recycles rising proportions of its solid waste like zinc, steel, paper or copper. But with an annual output of solid waste of 3 billion tons, of which 90 million tons hazardous substances,it is far from seeing the end of the tunnel.

The new legislation underpins the long lead times required to generate the profound behaviour changes that are necessary for society to adapt to the “age of resource scarcity” that humanity is entering: it will take the EU almost two decades, starting with the first Commission initiative in 2002, to reach satisfactory level of recycling electric and electronic waste.

The European Parliament, probably the “greenest” legislature on earth. has shown more understanding for stricter and speedier mandatory regulations than either industry or member countries. It has improved the Council draft on several important points, thanks to a tenacious rapporteur and the strong position of its Environment Committee.

Europe is far ahead of other major countries, in particular the USA and China, in terms of waste recycling. It is unbelievable that USA and China lack mandatory legislation on waste collection and recycling! The EU should once again declare its willingness to show other countries how to do it: Recycling is in the global interest. It is a precondition for long-term sustainable economic development.

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  1. “Europe is far ahead of other major countries, in particular the USA and China, in terms of waste recycling. It is unbelievable that USA and China lack mandatory legislation on waste collection and recycling! The EU should once again declare its willingness to show other countries how to do it: Recycling is in the global interest. It is a precondition for long-term sustainable economic development.”

    From my visual observation, it isn’t as far ahead as you might think. To boot, I frequently have to tell European sales reps of Architectural products that I deal with that they have to modify their sourcing to make the sale in the US. Much of what they peddle has no chain-of-custody documentation or certification of recycled content, and the reps do this on the theory that they think that there is ‘no environmentalism in America”.
    Newsflash: the contemporary environmental movement STARTED in the US. In fact Europeans used to mock us for it.

    Consumer recycling, and any laws connected with it, if you even need them, are local issues. This is part of the separation of powers between the Federal government and the states, and the way states implement policy. Nothing more.
    If you don’t put any value in this, it’s a small pricve to pay to maintain the system of checks and balances on central government power.

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