Campaign group claims recycling Directive discriminates against re-use

The EU’s draft directive on the treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) discriminates against the re-use of electrical goods through its focus on recycling targets, says a newly formed campaign group.

The European Network of Social Economy Enterprises in Re-use and Recycling, shortened to Rreuse, has put forward a number of amendments to the WEEE Directive. According to the group, the Directive would otherwise have a detrimental effect not only on the re-use of electrical equipment, but also on the 900 not-for-profit organisations that repair equipment in order to meet demand from low-income households.

“Although the value of re-use is highlighted in the contents of the Proposal and as one of the objectives in Article One, it is not well served by the wording of other Articles, and in our view is actually discriminated against,” said Rreuse in its WEEE position paper.

Rreuse focuses on what it sees as the two main faults of the directive. Firstly, it says, discrimination against the re-use of whole electrical appliances could be counteracted by allowing such activities to contribute to recycling and re-use targets. Alternatively, the weight of whole re-used appliances could be deducted from the total weight of electrical goods collected before percentage recovery calculations are carried out.

The group’s second criticism is that, in accordance with the Directive, all collected WEEE has to be taken to authorised treatment facilities. “In our experience, it is too late to separate reusable appliances from non-reusable appliances in a treatment facility,” says Rreuse in its position paper. “The initial collection points that will be set up will most probably use containers to store the collected appliances. Transportation within containers and other forms of handling the waste equipment will most definitely damage the appliances.” Rreuse suggests that the Directive should offer an incentive to ensure that the screening for reusable goods upon collection would counter the difficulty in separation of such appliances in large-scale waste disposal operations.

According to the campaign organisation, re-use is of particular importance because:

  • it is environmentally preferable to recycling (except where inefficient equipment remains in service) in terms of energy savings and raw material usage;
  • it allows access to equipment for low income households;
  • it supports local jobs and skills training opportunities.

Rreuse was officially launched in Brussels on 10 November, with 13 national and regional social economy organisations, with activities in re-use and recycling, subscribing to its founding declaration. The network aims to unite, represent and develop the social economy activities in the re-use and recycling of end-of-life products in the European Union, thus promoting sustainable development.

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