E-Waste Day: a plea for proper disposal of electrical and electronic equipment

Take-back quota can be increased – food retailers also participating in take-back system

old electrical appliances, such as PC, computer screen and laptopClick to enlarge
Electrical and electronic equipment does not belong in household waste.
Source: mekcar / Fotolia.com

Too much waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is still being disposed of improperly in Germany. A German Environment Agency (UBA) analysis found that some 86,000 tonnes per year land in the general waste bin instead of being recycled as prescribed. UBA’s President Dirk Messner is calling upon consumers on the occasion of this year’s E-Waste Day to discard their old devices as required: “Electrical and electronic equipment contains valuable raw materials which are scarce and costly and whose extraction requires large amounts of water or energy. This is why recycling is very worthwhile. Older equipment may also contain pollutants and must always be disposed of in the right way.” Although Germans collected a little over 1 million tonnes of WEEE in 2020, Germany’s recycling rate of 44.1 percent unfortunately still falls short of meeting the EU minimum recovery rate requirement of 65 percent.

The correct disposal and return of old appliances became even easier for consumers on 1 July 2022. Old and broken electrical appliances not only can be handed in at municipal recycling centres or in large electrical goods shops, but food retailers must also take back appliances free of charge if the total sales area is 800 m² and the shops offer electrical and electronic appliances several times in the calendar year. The obligation to take back free of charge applies to small WEEE (edge length up to 25 cm) even without a new purchase; for larger WEEE (greater than 25 cm) only with a new purchase of an appliance of the same type.

Recycling as well as using electrical appliances for as long as possible contributes to more sustainability and environmental protection. Dirk Messner asks: “Do I really need a new appliance? Can the old one perhaps be repaired? We are all able to make more conscious purchase decisions when it comes to electrical and electronic devices. And if it really has to be new, then it should be energy-efficient and easy to repair. It is often possible to pass on used devices to friends and family or sell them to a service provider who inspects and resells an item.”

The amount of new electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market in Germany has exceeded the 3 million tonne mark since 2021, rising from roughly 2 million tonnes in 2017. However, consumers are increasingly taking advantage of the opportunities to return appliances. As a result, the collected quantities of WEEE from private households increased from 10 kilograms per person per year in 2019 to 11.7 kilograms per person per year in 2020. In contrast, the quantity of WEEE collected from other sources ("commercial appliances") decreased significantly. It is encouraging that the recycling and recovery results achieved continue to be very high in 2020: 98.2% of the collected WEEE was recovered and 86.7% prepared for reuse and recycled.

International E-Waste Day (#ewasteday) was launched by the WEEE Forum, an international initiative, to raise awareness of the issue and the problems associated with the disposal of e-waste. The focus of this year's action day is on small appliances (e.g. mobile phones, electric toothbrushes, remote control units, cameras) that have reached the end of their useful life, are no longer being used and are either lying in drawers and cupboards or being disposed of in the wrong way as residual waste.

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 e-waste  electrical equipment  electronic equipment  WEEE  waste recycling  waste disposal