New EU proposals on e-waste to help consumers recycle

The European Parliament's environment committee votes on measures designed to reduce e-waste

By Jennifer Baker, IDG News Service |  Government

All but the smallest electronics retailers in Europe could soon be required to take back unwanted electronics under new measures aimed at reducing e-waste.

The European Parliament’s environment committee voted Tuesday for the proposals that include requiring retailers, including those online, to accept old laptops, computers, phones and other electronic devices, whether the customer has made a new purchase or not.

Currently, many shops are obliged to take old products back when a new replacement is purchased, but the proposed new rules, which have still to be formalized, would remove any need for the customer to make a new purchase. Parliamentarians say producers and consumers should bear the costs of e-waste, not the general taxpayer. But more should be done to cut out unnecessary administrative burdens and costs faced by companies.

European Union member states will also be expected to meet new targets in recycling larger electronic items. Depending on the category, the committee says 70 to 85 percent of e-waste should be recovered and 50 to 75 percent recycled. They propose a separate 5 percent reuse target so that more functional goods get a new lease of life instead of being scrapped.

"Collecting and recycling e-waste is good for the environment and good for the economy. Parliament's ambitious but achievable targets will help recover valuable raw materials and cut the flow of e-waste to landfills, incinerators and developing countries," said German parliamentarian Karl-Heinz Florenz.

The committee’s proposals, approved by 52 votes with only one against, will form part of the reform of the current Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. A plenary vote before the whole Parliament is planned for January.

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

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