Current e-Waste Regulations in the US and Other Developed Countries

E-waste Regulations in Other Developed Countries

Europe has been at the forefront with the WEEE directive passed in 2002 while USA has been a laggard as usual failing to prevent toxic waste from being dumped in landfills and shipped to poor countries with lax environmental regulations. Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 has been passed in California which again as usual has been leading the federal government on clean technology legislation.

 E-Waste Regulation in US

Electronic Waste Recycling Act [California], EWRA was signed into law on September 24, 2003, and amended by SB 50 (Stats. 2004, ch. 863) on September 29, 2004. One of the major objectives of the Electronic Waste Recycling Act, as amended, was to establish a new program for consumers to return video display devices, such as televisions and computer monitors, that are hazardous wastes when discarded. California consumers need to pay a fee of $6 to $10 at the time they purchase certain video display devices. Those fees are deposited into a special account that is used to pay qualified e-waste collectors and recyclers to cover their costs of managing e-waste.

 Electronic Recycling Fee

California unlike the European Union has taken a different approach to funding of Electronic Waste Management. Whereas in Europe,”Producer Responsibility” is used to fund the disposing of e-waste, California charges a fee from the customers of electronics. The fee is imposed on the retail sale or lease of certain electronic products that have been identified by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). To remit the fee, a retailer must register with the Board of Equalization. A retailer may retain 3 percent of the eWaste fee it collects as reimbursement for costs associated with the collection of the fee.

Objectives of the Electronic Waste Recycling Act

1. To limit the amount of toxic substances in certain electronic products sold in California. The levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium allowed in materials that make up covered electronic devices are limited by California’s ROHS. Manufacturers of covered electronic devices are required to provide information  to: 1) reduce the levels of toxic substances in electronic devices they produce; 2) increase the use of recyclable materials in their products; and 3) provide outreach programs to consumers

2. To establish a funding system for the collection and recycling of discarded covered electronic devices.

 E-Waste Regulation in Europe

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE)  issued by the European Community on E-Waste along with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive in 2003, regulates the collection, recycling and disposal of electronic and electrical equipment. The Directives are 2002/96/EC and 2002/95/EC. WEEE makes it mandatory for the producers to dispose off the Electronic Waste. Unlike the USA which does not have such a strict policy, the companies must do so in an environment friendly way and cannot export all the electronic junk to Africa, India or China which is the general way of the industry.

 WEEE Provision

The directive sets out collection requirements and a minimum collection target of 4 kg per inhabitant per year for WEEE from private households. In line with the so-called waste hierarchy, preference is given to re-using whole appliances of collected WEEE. In addition the directive provides minimum combined targets for re-using components and recycling and minimum recovery targets.

 What is Restriction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS)

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS), bans the use of certain hazardous substances (such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and some polybrominated flame-retardants) in WEEE. RoHS allows possible exemptions.

 WEEE Objective

The objective is the prevention of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), and in addition, the reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery of such wastes so as to reduce the disposal of waste. It also seeks to improve the environmental performance of all operators involved in the life cycle of electrical and electronic equipment.

WEEE Collection

a) Systems have to be set up so that Final holders and Distributors are able to return such waste at least free of charge

b) When supplying a new product, distributors shall be responsible for ensuring that such waste can be returned to
the distributor at least free of charge

c) Producers  are allowed to set up and operate individual and/or collective take-back systems for WEEE from private households

d) Member States shall ensure that all WEEE collected  is transported to treatment facilities.

 WEEE Revision

The European Commission has published its legislative proposal for the review of the WEEE Directive on December 3rd, 2008. The proposal will be debated and amended in a political legislative procedure by the European Parliament and EU Member States governments. New rules will probably not take effect until 2011-2012. Significant changes such as a broader scope, the introduction of CE marking requirements and new bans on substances could be made during this procedure.

 WEEE Categories of Electrical and Electronic Equipment

1. Large household appliances
2. Small household appliances
3. IT and telecommunications equipment
4. Consumer equipment
5. Lighting equipment
6. Electrical and electronic tools (with the exception of large-scale stationary industrial tools)
7. Toys, leisure and sports equipment
8. Medical devices (with the exception of all implanted and infected products)
9. Monitoring and control instruments
10. Automatic dispensers

Source: Abhishek Shah –
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