Not even half of all e-waste that arises in Europe every year is reported to authorities as being properly collected and treated; tens of thousands of tons end up in poor countries. The trouble is that improper treatment not only damages the environment and causes health concerns, which is bad enough, but also results in the loss of (critical) raw materials vital to the EU economy.
The WEEE Forum and its community of producer responsibility organisations continue to take on the challenge of e-waste. The WEEELABEX standards, which the WEEE Forum put in place, and the newly created WEEELABEX organisation, an auditors training outfit in Prague, introduce quality in the WEEE market. In order to address the issue of illicit trade of e-waste, an international consortium has launched a new project, funded by the EU: Countering WEEE Illegal Trade (CWIT). And finally, in response to the Commission’s call for commitments with respect to Europe’s resource efficiency strategies, we will propose a programme geared towards innovation in the value chain.
Find out more in this edition of Eye on WEEE.
Making transposition of the new Directive a success
In 2010, only about 3 million tons of the estimated total of 8 million tons of WEEE was officially collected, treated and reported to authorities across Europe. To address this situation, the EU adopted Directive 2012/19/EU. Member States are under an obligation to bring into force the regulations necessary to comply with this Directive by 14 February 2014.
The WEEE Forum is of the view that three critical elements need to be embedded in the regulations.
1. The quality of WEEE collection and processing must be secured. The legal framework must ensure that all WEEE collected is recycled in accordance with the same treatment standards, including WEEE which is exported for treatment abroad.
2. Authorities must, in conjunction with PROs, enforce conformity with the standards and the legal framework.
3. All WEEE flows that meet the minimum treatment standards must be reported and registered as being recycled so that these volumes are reflected in the total collection and recycling results in any given jurisdiction.
Find out more: 2012 Annual Report of the WEEE Forum.
EU crack down on illegal WEEE trade
An international consortium of seven organisations has launched a new project: ‘Countering WEEE Illegal Trade’ (CWIT). Interpol co-ordinates the project, and the WEEE Forum is a partner in the consortium. The project aspires to provide a set of recommendations to the European Commission and law enforcement authorities to assist them in countering the illegal trade of e-waste. Funded by the EU’s 7th Framework Program, this two-year security research project brings together experts skilled in the fields of e-waste analysis, crime analysis, supply chain security and database management.
In 2010, only about 3 million tons of the estimated total of 8 million tons of WEEE was officially collected, treated and reported to authorities across Europe. E-waste contains materials such as gold, copper and palladium which make it very valuable on the black market; attracting not only illegal single operators but also organised crime groups.
However, e-waste also contains hazardous substances such as mercury and cadmium. Therefore illegal e-waste handling, often in poor countries, leads to huge health issues and environmental pollution. At the same time, Europe is losing a vast amount of rare earth metals and other important minerals due to increasing illicit activities, poor compliance rates, and limited enforcement activities in e-waste.
These issues call for increased attention and enhanced enforcement in the context of WEEE trade, transport and treatment. The CWIT project has been established to identify the policy and technical gaps as observed in today’s business environment, and to suggest tangible improvements.
The CWIT consortium is composed of partners that have a great deal of expertise on the WEEE area, crime analysis and the management of large databases. It comprises Interpol, WEEE Forum, United Nations University (UNU), Zanasi & Partners (Z&P), Compliance and Risks (C2P), Cross-Border Research Association (CBRA) and United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI).
Find out more: www.cwitproject.eu.
Call for Commitments to improve Europe’s resource efficiency
As the processing of recycled material requires less energy than the processing of virgin raw materials, recycling reduces production costs and carbon emissions. However, there is scope for improvement. The European Commission reckons that “most critical raw materials have a recycling rate below 20%”.
The Raw Materials Initiative (2011) singled out measures to improve recycling markets: Gathering of best practices in collection and treatment of waste, support for research and innovation, the promotion of economic incentives for recycling, tackling illegal waste shipments outside Europe, to name but a few.
With a view to increasing the availability of raw materials for Europe, the Commission proposed a European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on raw materials into which the WEEE Forum has delegated representatives. The Partnership brings together authorities, companies, researchers and NGOs to promote innovative solutions to Europe's raw materials challenge.
The Commission says: “In order to be successful, the EIP needs to involve a very large number of partners across the EU and the entire raw materials value chain that will carry out actions contributing to the objectives of the EIP. Actions by EU institutions alone will not be sufficient, nor will funding from the EU budget alone”. On 31 October 2013, the Commission launched an open call for commitments in order to trigger a number of individual commitments to contribute to achieving the objectives of the Strategic Implementation Plan.
The WEEE Forum has decided to respond to the Call for Commitments. In conjunction with partners who choose to join our initiative, a six-year programme on resource efficiency will be designed geared towards systemic technological and non-technological innovation in the WEEE value chain.
WEEELABEX organisation appoints a Managing Director
Following the set-up on 17 April 2013 of the WEEELABEX Organisation, a non-profit legal entity geared towards training auditors in accordance with the WEEELABEX quality standards, Mario Vöröš was appointed its first Director. Vöröš has more than ten years’ experience in international projects and as lead auditor with ISO standards auditing, training and implementation of management systems.
Mario Vöröš will manage the WEEELABEX Operation, build the WEEELABEX Academy and promote the adoption of WEEELABEX standards by operators and member states as a means to improve WEEE management practices in Europe and beyond.
WEEELABEX’s first pool of Auditors
The WEEELABEX Office has just qualified the first pool of WEEELABEX Auditors, who are available to perform the conformity verification at the premises of treatment operators in accordance with WEEELABEX general and specialist requirements for refrigeration equipment.
WEEELABEX compliance schemes in cooperation with treatment operators can launch Conformity Verification by sending the Declaration of Intent to the WEEELABEX Office.
In addition, qualified auditors, listed on the WEEELABEX website, are in place to perform the WEEELABEX audit for the following treatment process streams: large and small household appliances, cathode ray tubes displays, flat panel displays and temperature exchange equipment.
Countries should annually report on resource efficiency, World Resources Forum concludes
“Countries should annually report on how their economies are developing with respect to resource efficiency”, concluded the World Resources Forum, a Swiss multi-stakeholder platform on global resource management, at its conference in Davos on 7-9 October 2013. Key tools and strategies the experts recommend include sustainable product and service design, waste prevention and recycling. It was acknowledged that much broader knowledge is necessary in order to change or progress beyond the culture of consumerism. Social sciences and humanities research have an increasing and important role to play in identifying, evaluating and interpreting underlying drivers for consumption choices.
Find out more: World Resources Forum.
News from the Membership
The Netherlands: Wecycle starts innovative collection concept
On 1 September 2013, Wecycle started a new local collection concept in the city of Leeuwarden. In close collaboration with a major Dutch postal services company, inhabitants of this city can deposit their small used electric gear in special collection boxes hanging underneath letter boxes, 24 hours a day somewhere near their homes. Thirty of the 60 letter boxes in Leeuwarden are provided with these e-waste collection boxes. In the first two months alone, more than 1.600kg of e-waste was collected. Encouragingly, so far very little waste other than e-waste or appliances which are too large has been spotted in or next to the boxes. The pilot will last for one year.
Portugal: Pow_Dá POWer ao Electrão
Amb3E, the biggest compliance scheme in Portugal, has recently launched a project called “POW_Dá POWer ao Electrão”. It raises awareness among the youth and promotes the adoption of environment-friendly behaviour. In three different stages, each one with a central topic and represented by a famous ambassador, participants will produce a creative video, using for instance a mobile phone. The video will then be promoted on YouTube and social networks and three winners will be selected. Schools can also participate under the subject: “Our school is more aware than yours!” submitting a document detailing their good environmental practices.
Amb3E has also been associated with “Projeto 80”, a nation-wide programme promoted by the Portuguese authorities for students aged between 13 and 17 years.
Czech Republic: PV panels
Retela is among the WEEE Forum members that covers all ten WEEE categories as well as spent batteries and photovoltaic panels. With thousands of signed agreements within the first half of this year, the scheme is now close to 5.000 clients under contract including photovoltaic installations installed before 2013, which are equivalent to “historical WEEE”, but the future recycling cost cannot be covered by present (or future) producers or importers. Instead, the owners of the 22.000 “historic” power stations must cover this cost. The Czech law requires all of them to sign an agreement with an approved scheme before July 2013.
Strict requirements of mandatory savings of €38 for every historically installed kW through some approved collective scheme are in place.
Czech Republic: Iron Week
Elektrowin tied up with the Czech tradition of clearing households of old and useless items during “iron” Saturdays and Sundays by organising an event called Iron Week.
This year, Iron Week took place for the third time all over the Czech Republic on 16-20 September 2013. Citizens returned used gear that had been lying forgotten in basements, garages and attics to the collection points. The nationwide challenge was accompanied by events under the slogan “Steel yourselves in recycling” on squares in Prague, Olomouc, and Brno.
During the first year’s Iron Week, 543 tons of old electrical appliances were collected; last year it was already 680 tons. Elektrowin annually gathers and recycles more than 25.000 tons, which is slightly over 480 tons a week. Iron Week therefore really means a challenge for Czech households – and they really support it.
On this year’s edition, 760 tons of appliances were taken back.
Italy: Report from Ghana
Every year tons of used electronic devices are sent to Ghana. In this small African country, the number of people using technology is increasing. Refrigerators, television sets and mobile phones are sold all over the country, but prices for new devices are usually too expensive for ordinary people, so they prefer the second hand market of products coming from Europe and America.
A huge amount of these ‘used’ electric and electronic products is not working any longer. 70% of the 215.000 tons imported every year is used gear. All the rest – 30% or more than 60.000 tons per year – is e-waste.
All this junk ends its life in Agbogbloshie, a huge scrapyard where old laptops, refrigerators and TV sets are dismantled to extract copper, steel and other valuable metals. People working with these materials do not use any protection, nor gloves or masks. Toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury pollute the soil and groundwater. Dioxins contaminate the air they breathe.
See Ilaria Sesana’s video reportage “Agbogbloshie: Postcards from Hell”.
Romania: Visit of the WEEE Forum president to Ecotic
José Ramón Carbajosa, President of the WEEE Forum, was the guest of Ecotic on 9-11 September 2013. His agenda included visits to Ecotic workshops at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, at the Romanian Parliament and a meeting with board members of Ecotic. At the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change workshop where the Ecotic management was present, the subjects discussed were the WEEE management in Romania, the transposition of the new Directive into member states regulations and the implementation of the WEEELABEX quality standards.
The visit also entailed an exchange of experiences and the recognition of Ecotic’s involvement in WEEE management in Romania.
Find out more: www.ecotic.ro.
Romania: Campaign “Be Our Hero! Recycle!”
Ecotic, Recolamp and Real-Vitan hypermarket Romania launched the campaign: "Be Our Hero! Recycle!”. It centred on the importance of support and involvement regarding the selective collection and recycling of e-waste.
In the first half of September, anyone could become a hero by recycling the old and worn out electrical and electronic equipment, burnt neon bulbs and used batteries and accumulators. Consumers who returned the waste items to supermarket Real-Vitan (Bucharest) contributed to a cleaner environment and could win new electrical equipment as prizes.
Find out more: press release.
Ireland: Public consultation on the implementation of the WEEE recast Directive
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan, CEO of WEEE Ireland Leo Donovan, Chairman of WEEE Ireland Kieran Whelan, and economist Jim Power gathered at an event where Minister Hogan launched his Department's public consultation on the implementation of the WEEE recast Directive in Ireland.
Speaking on the document, which is on environ.ie, Minister Hogan said: "I am proposing a package of measures in this consultation that, I believe, draws on our considerable experiences to date and provides the regulatory framework that will build upon the success we have together achieved."