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Action urged to protect compliant e-scrap recyclers

Recyclers of electronic and electrical equipment are calling for greater recognition of how they are being hit by non-compliance operators and the scavenging of valuable products and components.

The European Electronics Recyclers Association (EERA) wants mandatory standards to be introduced to ensure a level playing field with those failing to observe compliance practices. It is also seeking recognition within the tendering process of the additional reporting and treatment costs borne by compliant recyclers.

Small steps forward

EERA commissioned a study from the United Nations University (UNU) because of concern that only 20% of e-scrap collected and treated worldwide is documented. Fifteen years after the implementation of the European WEEE Directive, it is estimated that figure among EU member states is still only 35%.

Non-compliant operators who failed to report their activities could save up to 20% of operational costs while up to 50% of such costs is avoided by illegal practices around treatment and disposal, concludes UNU.

Major loss

The study finds that the scavenging of valuable parts, such as motors, compressors, hard disks, cables and printed circuit boards, before they reaching compliant recyclers results in a yearly loss for the industry of EUR 170 million.

‘Pressure from the EEE industry to reduce or keep costs down aids some of the undesired market forces that are creating economic and social losses,’ it is stressed.

Cherry picking

‘The scavenging or cherry picking of valuable fractions from e-scrap generated is a serious problem which is often beyond the control of compliance schemes and recyclers. Monitoring and reporting on scavenging levels can be a solution between contract partners to create sustainable business practices,’ it is stressed.

Compensation needed

The study concludes: ‘Creating a level-playing field by introducing mandatory standards is one of the main recommendations.’ Furthermore, it is proposed that recyclers are compensated for the diverted economic income due to scavenging.

The UNU report’s recommendations

*An “observatory” to monitor the operational costs among EU recyclers;

*Minimum operational costs for reporting and compliance to be excluded from price negotiations with compliance schemes;

*An “observatory” to monitor the scavenging level in different countries and a common basis for estimating the financial cost of scavenging;

A “scavenging index” in the negotiation of contracts with compliance schemes;

*Improved reporting over collection and treatment and the application of standards in the CENELEC EN 50625 (Collection, logistics & treatment requirements for WEEE) to all operators.

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