Are WEEE rules overbearing – or not strict enough?
This summer, the EU updated its WEEE Directive, which attempts to get European countries recycling and reclaiming their electronic waste. But is the new directive a good idea – or is it doomed to failure?
Under the new rules, companies will have to take back and dispose of any waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) that users bring back to the shop. By 2020, Europe is supposed to be reclaiming 85 percent of its electronic waste stream. These are lofty goals, and we approve at TechWeekEurope, but we have heard voices raised against this directive, or against the lack of joined-up thinking behind it.
Trash or treasure?
The existing WEEE Directive came into force in February 2003, but wasn’t actually compulsory in the UK until mid 2007 and EC authorities went as far as to issue a written warning to the UK government for delaying implementing the legislation.
Electronic waste can be a treasure trove of rare elements, and can in some cases be more cost-effective than mining for them, so recycling electronic waste has a double benefit for the environment: reducing trash sent to landfill sites, and cutting the need for more mining.
However, throughout its existence the WEEE Directive has come in for criticism, from those who think that its strictures are a needless burden on the untrammeled activity of business, and from those that think the EU didn’t think through the practicalities of recycling and reuse.
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