Normative requirements regarding treatment of e-waste

In 2015, in the 27 Member States of the European Union plus Norway and Switzerland, 11.8 million tons of electrical and electronic equipment were placed on the market. The quantity of WEEE ‘arising’ (or ‘generated’) in that same year is estimated to be approximately 10 million tonnes. Only around one third of that quantity, 3.75 million tonnes, is officially collected, treated and reported to the authorities.

Standards are required to regulate collection, sorting, handling, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal of WEEE. Rules must be laid down to decide whether an undertaking’s processes deserve to be identified as ‘excellent’, and auditors must be trained to verify whether undertakings involved in collection and treatment meet those standards. 

The WEEE Forum is involved in the WEEELABEX standards initiative, which has established a set of standards for the collection, handling, storage and recycling of WEEE. It is a member of the WEEELABEX group of experts in charge of discussing technical matters related to the WEEELABEX certification.

Standards are required to regulate collection, sorting, handling, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal of WEEE.

In addition, it is participating in the CENELEC Technical Committee TC111X, WG 6 dealing with the revision of the CENELEC 50625 series. The WEEE Forum also actively contributes to the dialogue about setting mandatory WEEE treatment standards in Europe.

Finally, it recently became involved with the CEWASTE project, which focusses on introducing standards in the WEEE value chain to increase the extraction of critical raw materials.

WEEE contains precious metals, such as gold and silver, as well as other metals, such as copper and aluminium. The costs associated with recycling have generally been recovered through the sale of those materials extracted from end-of-life products. The issue is that these materials are also often found next to critical raw materials, such as palladium and neodymium, which Europe’s economy requires to produce electronics and high-tech products. They are also found next to hazardous substances, for example mercury, brominated flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls, cadmium and volatile fluorocarbons. The latter materials require specialist handling and treatment in order to avoid environmental pollution and exposure to health and safety risks. WEEE containing those substances are often not properly de-polluted and follow routes that escape official reporting, monitoring and legal compliance.