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Europe´s growing pile of e-waste


03 Feb 2011


Climate & Environment
Health & Consumers

Household appliances, such as computers, mobile phones, fridges, microwaves, irons and other consumer gadgets, constitute one of the fastest growing electric and electronic waste streams in the European Union. This type of waste poses a series of challenges such as health problems if the waste is not properly treated and a waste of raw materials if there is no recycling. 

The European Parliament adopted today its first reading recommendation on the revision of the current WEEE Directive (Waste Electrical and Electronic equipment) since 2002, aiming at toughening of existing rules on collection and treatment of the growing volumes of e-waste.  ALDE underlines that the main objective of the report is harmonising EU level registration, revising collection schemes and recycling tasks, tightening control of illegal shipment, and reporting inspection requirements for Member States.
Chris Davies (LibDem, UK), ALDE Coordinator for the Environment Committee spoke after the vote:
"A huge and growing volume of electrical equipment is discarded each year.  With much of it containing rare metals it needs to be treated not as rubbish but as a valuable raw material that should be recycled with care.
"We must curb the illegal export of this material to developing countries where, too often, it is dismantled by children and the poor in conditions that are hazardous in the extreme.  Our waste must not become another person's poison."

Vladko Todorov Panayotov (MRF, Bulgaria), ALDE Group shadow rapporteur, said: "Europe is spending every year more than 130 billion Euros for the import of precious raw materials, which are crucial for the competitiveness of key high-tech sectors of the EU's economy. With higher collection targets and modern ecological technologies for the treatment of electrical and electronic waste, the European Union can create new jobs, make substantial financial savings and secure a leading position in technological development. We must recycle more and in a better way. These appliances are rich in precious metals such as gold, paladium, platinum and cobalt which can be extracted for reuse. "

Notes : Each citizen generates on average between 17 and 20 kg of e-waste each year. According to national reports, only 33% of this waste is currently collected and properly treated. About 13% goes to landfills and a big amount of waste (54%) is illegally shipped out of Europe.
The current mandatory minimum collection target is 4 kg per year per person, but it doesn´t reflect the different circumstances of each country. Member States should collect at least 85% of WEEE generated in their country by 2016 under the proposed changes.

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