E-waste Legislations and Management System in Europe

E-waste Legislations and Management System in Europe



In Europe, the majority of e-waste is regulated by the WEEE Directive (2012/19/EU). This regulation is in force in the European Union and in Norway. Other countries – including Iceland, Switzerland, and several Balkan countries, such as Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina – have similar laws. The WEEE Directive set collection, recycling, reuse, and recovery targets for all six categories of e-waste. From 2018 onwards, article 7 of the WEEE Directive states that the minimum collection rate to be achieved annually by a member state shall be either 65% of the average weight of EEE POM in the three preceding years or 85% of e-waste generated on the territory of a member state in 2018. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia may have the option to remove themselves from this regulation by 2021 because of their relatively low level of EEE consumption. The latest developments in the implementation of the WEEE Directive are the introduction of the open scope and newly specified reporting guidelines. 

Since August 15, 2018, the so-called open scope has been in place. The open scope means that EEE products are a priori considered to be in scope in the European Union unless specific exclusions apply. This means, in practice, that new products, such as clothes and furniture with electric functionality, can fall under the directive. With regard to e-waste statistics, the most important decisions are calculation methods for the preparation of reuse, exports of e-waste, the e-waste generated methodology, and the reporting categories. Preparation for reuse is defined as the weight of whole appliances that have become waste and of components of e-waste that, following checking, cleaning, or repairing operations, can be reused without any further sorting or preprocessing. It also contains a decision on the registration of e-waste exports. Where e-waste is sent for treatment in another member state or exported for treatment in a third country in accordance with Article 10 of Directive 2012/19/EU, only the member state that has collected and sent or exported the e-waste for treatment may count it towards the minimum recovery targets referred. Note that the directive does not yet cover any decision on exports of reused products, as they are not yet waste. Also, member states have to report the data on the weight of e-waste generated. Another decision is that data shall be reported in the six categories, but that Category 4, Large equipment, is split into Category 4a (Large equipment excluding photovoltaic panels) and Category 4b (Large equipment including photovoltaic panels). 

In Ukraine, an EPR system based on the EU WEEE Directive is in development, by the association agreement from the EU and Ukraine. Thanks to the collaborative project supported by the EU, the Ministry of Ukraine Regional Development received support to establish a legal basis on the disposal of electronic waste and batteries. Recently, the two-year project “Implementation of Management System for Waste of Electric and Electronic Equipment and Batteries in Ukraine” has been completed. This project helped develop two laws: The Bill on Batteries and Accumulators and the Bill on Waste of Electric and Electronic Equipment, which is expected to pass parliament in 2020.

In Belarus, there is a general law, Law No. 271-Z on waste management, dated July 20, 2007. E-waste is managed within a framework of EPR of manufacturers and suppliers. The e-waste categories featured are large equipment, whose lengths are over 160 cm; medium-sized items sized 80-160 cm; and small items, under 80 cm in length. Within the “Municipal Waste Management and Use of Recycled Resources” component of the national programme “Comfortable Accommodation and Favourable Environment” for 2016-2020 (Order of the Council of Ministers of Belarus, dated April 21, 2016, No. 326), an objective was set to reach the intermediate target of 20% by 2019. Ferrous metal law bans the collection of e-waste by metal scrap recyclers. Despite that, such collection probably still happens. Valuable components are taken out, and hazardous substances are dumped. In Moldova, a national strategy on waste has been in effect since 2013. There is an EU-Republic Moldovan association agreement, under which several association agreements on environmental legislation exist. Within that context, the EPR on e-waste was approved in 2018. In Moldova, e-waste is classified into the 10 categories of the old EU WEEE Directive, as opposed to the current 6 categories enforced in the EU. The EPR law specifies that there are also collection and recycling targets based on EEE POM of the three preceding years. In 2020, there is a 5% collection target. This will gradually increase by 5% each year until 30% in 2025. In 2017, Russia has started an EPR programme for electrical and electronic scrap. Manufacturers and importers must help collect and process obsolete electronics in accordance with Russian circular economy legislation.

Source: The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 



E-waste management systems

In the European Union, there is a very well-developed compliant e-waste management infrastructure to collect e-waste in shops and municipalities by private operators, as well as to further recover the recyclable components of the collected e-waste and dispose of residuals in a compliant and environmentally sound manner. This has been established by the relatively long-running history of EU e-waste legislation since early in 2003. Consequently, statistics show that 59% of the e-waste generated in Northern Europe and 54% of e-waste generated in Western Europe is documented as being formally recycled; the e-waste collection data was reported for 2017. Those are the highest percentages in the world. For the reference year 2019, 85% of e-waste generated, or 65% EEE POM of the three preceding years, has to be collected by a member state of the EU, which indicates that collection and recycling must increase even further to meet the collection targets.

The feasibility of achieving the target and the location of other e-waste have therefore been subject to several country studies in recent years. During the writing of this study, the most recent studies have been performed in the Netherlands (Baldé et al. 2020) and Romania (Magalini et al. 2019). These studies indicate that an increasing share of e-waste, compared to the e-waste generated, has been compliantly recycled in the past. However, significant parts are still managed outside the compliant recycling sectors in the EU. E-waste management takes place by exporting for reuse, e-waste that is disposed of in mixed residual waste as well as e-waste that is non-compliantly recycled with metal scrap. In the Netherlands, the exports for reuse have been quantified as being roughly 8% of the total e-waste generated (Baldé et al. 2020). These exports are mostly comprised of EEE from IT servers and laptops from dedicated refurbishing companies, as well as used fridges, used microwaves, and other durable goods that are stuffed in second-hand vehicles or containers and shipped to Africa. Exports for reuse are considered as lifetime extensions and are a part of the circular economy. But many other EU countries do not have such data, and without it, reaching the collection targets in those exporting countries will be more difficult, if not impossible. The lower-income EU countries that have lower consumption of EEE than higher-income countries can also be recipient countries of those exports for reuse. The recent studies also indicate that despite the relatively high environmental awareness in the EU, e-waste is still disposed of in residual waste, and the small e-waste ends up in residual waste bins. This comprises approximately 0.6 Mt of the EU's e-waste (Rotter et al. 2016). A positive note is that the share of e-waste in the residual waste declined in the Netherlands from 11% to 9% of e-waste generated in the past decade (Baldé et al. 2020). The largest uncompliant flow of e-waste is managed together with metal scrap, but without proper de-pollution steps in place.

Compared to other European countries in its region, Belarus has a relatively advanced e-waste collection and recycling sector. There are municipal drop-off and collection points and private pick-up and collection points, and e-waste is also collected from repair and service centres. Belarus collected 23 kt of e-waste in 2019. The collection from households is incentivized by a small financial transaction that the compliant waste collector (or recycler) receives from the government. However, private companies and governmental agencies have to pay for the e-waste collection. The e-waste collection from public agencies might be hampered because they have to pay a small fee, and the agencies are typically underfunded. So, public agencies typically store the equipment.

In other Eastern European countries, such as the Balkans, e-waste collection is beginning and an e-waste management infrastructure is currently in development, but not yet achieving same rates of e-waste as in Northern and Western Europe. In Moldova, there are collection points from municipalities. Some private companies get equipment from schools, universities, and other public authorities. In Russia and Ukraine, there are enterprises that collect e-waste and manage it in an environmentally sound manner. However, there are too few e-waste collection points, and the e-waste management capacity is not enough to recycle all domestic e-waste in an environmentally sound manner. Thus, e-waste is likely to be recycled together with metal scrap or dumped in landfills

Follow: The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 


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