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Electronics recycling ‘pays off’ but EU targets are ‘extremely challenging’

Malta – Members of the WEEE Forum collected some 2.1 million tonnes of e-scrap last year – up from only 292 550 tonnes in 2002. A total of 17 million tonnes of e-scrap has been collected for recycling or reuse since the Forum’€™s launch, it was announced at the body’€™s fifth international conference in Malta where it celebrated its 15th anniversary.

On average, delegates heard, 8% of end-of-life electronics end up in the household waste bin each year while almost 9.5 million tonnes of e-scrap is generated across the EU (plus Norway and Switzerland).

‘The 2019 collection target of 65% of equipment sold, or 85% of WEEE generated, will be extremely challenging for almost all member states – unless we encourage co-operation among stakeholders, count all WEEE and improve law enforcement,’ ventured WEEE Forum president Jan Vlak. Some countries are leading the way.

‘All EU member states need to follow the example of the Dutch, Belgians, Irish, Lithuanians and French,’ suggested WEEE Forum secretary general Pascal Leroy. These nations have succeeded in making the EN 50625 standards on collection, logistics and treatment of e-scrap legally binding.

While producers accept they need to finance end-of-life costs, they often don’t have the authority to manage and control the cost, noted WEEE Forum vice president Philip Morton. ‘Legislation needs to ensure producers’ cost responsibility is clear and they have the legal right to approve collection points, collectors and recyclers of e-scrap,’ he argued.

‘E-scrap provides a prime example of why recycling efforts pay off; and it pays off for the environment, it pays off for industry, and it pays off in jobs,’ said keynote speaker Karmenu Vella, EU commissioner for the environment. He stressed the importance of ‘finding circular solutions’ and switching ‘from waste management to resource management’.

Since its inception, the WEEE Forum has become the voice of 31 non-profit e-scrap producer responsibility organisations in Europe and Australasia, with its members operating more than 114 000 e-scrap collection points.

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