Throwing away your old computer just got harder in Europe

New strict laws on electronic waste are approved by the European Parliament

New rules on disposing of your old laptop, printer or mobile phone look set to come into force in the European Union. The European Parliament on Thursday voted to pass stricter laws on how the bloc deals with electronic and electrical equipment waste.

The proposed new rules could have a real impact on both consumers and companies as members of Parliament (MEPs) want consumers to be able to return small items to retailers to dispose of safely. They also say that companies can contribute to the cause by designing products in such a way that materials are easier to recycle – they voted for a 50 percent to 75 percent recycling target (depending on category) and support a new 5 percent reuse goal.

The proposal would also see the scope of the law extended to all electrical and electronic equipment, including medical devices and monitoring and control instruments.

Obsolete and broken electrical appliances and electronic gadgets are the E.U.'s fastest-growing type of waste and legislators want to see that reduced or reused. Parliament wants member states to collect 85 percent of all electronic waste produced from 2016. It also proposes a 2012 target: countries should collect 4 kilograms of electronic waste per inhabitant or the weight collected in 2010, whichever is greater.

"We can no longer afford to waste our waste. Parliament has sent a strong message that public authorities, manufacturers and consumers all need to play their part to ensure we collect and recycle more of our electrical and electronic goods," said MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz, who steered the legislation through Parliament.

Tougher measures to prevent the export of electronic waste to developing countries, where it can pose a health and environmental hazard, have also been recommended.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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