As far as earth-friendly initiatives go, Europe should be praised for its collective efforts over the last few decades. In fact, seven out of the top ten most environmentally active countries in the world are European nations, including Switzerland at number one, Sweden at number two, and Norway, Finland, Austria, Latvia, and France in the top ten as well.
Considering Europe’s eco-awareness, The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive of 2003 is unsurprising, albeit very praiseworthy. Affectionately known as the WEEE Directive, it was put into action in 2002 by the European Economic Community. The directive’s major goals include controlling the waste of electronic goods and increasing the margins of recycling for those materials. WEEE became effective as a law in February 2003.
In order to achieve higher levels electronic and electrical waste recycling, the directive placed the responsibility of recycling electronic products on the product’s manufacturers. Companies are now required to provide systems which allow consumers to return their electronic purchases free of charge. From there, the manufacturers dispose of the equipment in earth-friendly ways. As a result of the WEEE Directive, these manufacturers recycle the returned products into other commodities instead of dumping them into the landfills of developing countries (the prior practice).
There are, of course, certain provisions to the directive, including the distinction between “historic” and “non-historic” waste. While “non-historic” equipment that entered the market in 2005 or later must be accounted for by its maker or distributor, “historic” electrical and electronic waste created before 2005 remains the consumer’s responsibility in terms of recycling. The law also draws lines between the different types of waste, with categories like medical equipment, lighting, household appliances, electrical tools, telecommunications equipment, etc.
The introduction of the WEEE Directive has also driven progress in recycling technology, with the development of new methods to further meet the Common Market’s standards. The U.K. company, EnvironCom, recently created a new technique for recycling refrigerator polyurethane. Refrigerator polyurethane is a known toxin for the environment, and prior to the WEEE Directive, was dangerously discarded in landfills. Thanks to EnvironCom’s efforts, fridge material reuse has shot way up to 98%, and according to the company, over 2,000 tons of PUR have already been redirected from destructive landfills.
The directive has continued to set off action and awareness concerning the damaging effects of neglecting electronic and electrical waste in the European community and beyond. In Manchester, a Recycle Week was established in mid-June 2012. Recycling centers were set up in schools and communities across the county to encourage citizens to recycle their small electronics and electrical household items.
As other parts of Europe look towards mobilization, the WEEE Directive continues to decrease the amount of e-waste throughout the continent. A similar directive could benefit the United States, driving households across the country to recycle their old electronics with domestic computer recycling centers such as that of Cash for Electronic Scrap USA.