EU electronic retailers must take back old equipment without charge or sale

A new EU law will force electronic stores to process waste electronic equipment

The European Parliament on Thursday approved plans to force large electronic retailers to take back old equipment.

The new rules are as part of a shakeup of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and will gradually come into force over the next seven years.

Only one third of electrical and electronic waste in the European Union is separately collected and appropriately treated and the revised directive will increase the collection target from its current 4 kilograms per capita to around 20 kilograms per capita by 2020. By 2020, it is estimated that the volume of electronic equipment will increase to 12 million tons and the E.U. authorities want to see 85 percent of that collected and treated.

The retailer take-back plan means that larger electrical goods stores, with a shop space of 400 square meters or larger, will have to accept small electronic items, such as mobile phones, free of charge, without making users purchase a new product.

Welcoming Thursday's vote, E.U. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "Proper treatment of WEEE is important to prevent harm to human health and the environment, and its systematic collection is the precondition for professional recycling of the valuable raw materials like gold, silver, copper and rare metals, contained in our used TVs, laptops and mobile phones."

The revised directive also includes a clampdown on illegal exports of waste electronic equipment. Equipment that is no longer under warranty can only be exported to non-OECD countries if it has been certified to be fully functional and sent properly.

"It is long overdue that we stop making developing countries the dumping ground for our hazardous waste," said Green member of the European Parliament, Michalis Tremopoulos.

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

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Jennifer Baker

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