Waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is one of the fastest growing waste streams in Europe, with some 12,3 Mt (16,6 kg/inh) generated in the EU 2016 (and 44,7 Mt worldwide), and expected to grow to more than 52,2 Mt in 2021 worldwide (The global E-waste Monitor UNU-IAS, 2017).
WEEE contains a complex mixture of materials and components, which are partly hazardous. Not properly managed WEEE can cause major environmental and health problems. In addition, the production of electronics requires the use of scarce and expensive resources. The improvement of collection, treatment and recycling and avoiding illegal export (to countries with poor treatment facilities) of electronics at the end of their life is essential to contribute to a circular economy.
- brominated flame-retardants (BFR) in WEEE plastic
- the classification of WEEE
- Annex VI of the WEEE Directive (minimum requirements for shipments)
Ad 1 Conclusions and recommendations BFRs
In 2018, a workshop was held in which best practices for inspection, detection methods and thresholds for BFRs were discussed. For many countries inspection on BFRs in WEEE is very complicated and not often done. To improve this situation the following steps could be considered:
- a common understanding on classification of BFR containing WEEE plastic;
- binding threshold for all BFRs (including DecaBDE);
- list of detections methods for BFRs for Bromine alternatively;
- new waste code for plastic containing BFRs;
- clear steps how plastics containing BFRs should be derived from waste stream at WEEE treatment operator or at subsequent steps (e.g. requirements in Austria);
- obligation for waste treatment companies to report the removal and the treatment of WEEE plastic containing BFRs.
Ad 2 Conclusions regarding WEEE classification
- Most participants of the project classified the substances and components from the dismantling of WEEE in the same way. However, with regard to some components, there are quite considerable differences. See also Chapter 3 of the report with the outcome of the survey.
- For waste shipment inspections it is very important to agree within the EU Member States as much as possible on the same classification of WEEE.
- At least it would be advantageous to publish a compilation document – classification of WEEE (incl. differencies) established by Member States – on the website of the European Commission (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/shipments/other_documents.htm) for example like the compilation document – Threshold values for contaminants in “green”-listed wastes established by Member States.
Ad 3 Annex VI of the WEEE Directive
Annex VI of the WEEE Directive gives Member States tools to fight illegal export of waste more effectively. Annex VI requires exporters to test and provide documents on the nature of their shipments when the shipments run the risk of being waste. Although Annex VI gives more tools, there are still elements, which Member States can interpret (e.g. when is testing done properly and the classification) and enforce differently. Different interpretation and enforcement will cause effects like port hopping and discussions on return shipments.
One of the aim of the project was to improve the enforcement of illegal shipments of WEEE to countries with poor treatment facilities (African and Asian countries) by creating a guideline for a more uniform interpretation and enforcement of Annex VI of the WEEE Directive.