Magazine article World Watch

Europe May Pass Electronics Take-Back Law

Magazine article World Watch

Europe May Pass Electronics Take-Back Law

Article excerpt

The European Parliament, the legislative branch of the EU, has initially approved two directives that will require electronics manufacturers to reduce the amount of hazardous substances in their equipment and to pay for the recycling of their products. The EU proposals are aimed at making electronics manufacturers take a comprehensive approach to the issue of electronic waste by dealing with the problem at the beginning and end of a product's life cycle.

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive (WEEE) will set up a "polluter pays" policy, which will hold electronics manufacturers responsible for treatment, recovery, and disposal of their products in Europe. Consumers will be able to return electronic appliances--computers, video games, digital cameras, refrigerators, hair dryers, etc.--to manufacturers free of charge. The proposal sets a target date of December 2005 to begin annual collection of an average of at least 6 kilograms per person.

The second measure, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive, will ban the use of a number of toxic materials currently used in electronics, including lead, mercury, and cadmium. The initial proposal called for these chemicals to be phased out by 2008, but the Parliament changed the date to 2006 in the latest draft.

There is growing concern around the world about the buildup of electronic waste, much of which ends up in landfills. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that computers and other electronic equipment account for about 22 million tons of waste per year in the United States. Most obsolete electronics have yet to make the trip to the landfill, according to the EPA, as 75 percent of unused electronic equipment is gathering dust in storerooms and attics. The U.S.-based National Safety Council estimates that, in 2002 alone, the number of old personal computers entering obsolescence in the United States will outpace the number of new PCs hitting the market by 3.2 million.

Of equal concern is the hazardous nature of the heavy metals contained within electronics, which can seep from landfills into water supplies or waft from incinerators into the atmosphere. "Electronic equipment is one of the largest known sources of heavy metals, toxic materials, and organic pollutants in municipal trash waste," said Leslie Byster of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, which estimates that 40 percent of the lead in landfills comes from consumer electronics. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.