Over the past few years, legislators have established regulations for the proper disposal and recycling of used electrical and electronic equipment in many countries around the world, e.g., in the EU, Eastern Europe, North America, South America and Asia as well. On the one side, e-waste frequently contain hazardous substances that could pose risks to public health and the environment if not disposed of properly. On the other hand, many raw materials used in such used electrical and electronic equipment can also be recycled.
The European WEEE Directive 2002/96/EC serves as a model for many countries when it comes to the prevention, decrease and environmentally friendly disposal of e-waste. This Directive was replaced by the WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU (WEEE Recast), which entered into force on August 13, 2012 and which envisages an expanded scope of application. All electrical and electronic appliances shall be covered by it as of mid August 2018. Other changes relate, e.g., to the increase in the take-back and collection quotas for manufacturers, the producer definition, stricter take-back obligations for large distributors as well as the appointment of an authorized representative.
Waste batteries and accumulators often contain hazardous substances such as mercury, lead and cadmium and thus should not be disposed of with household waste. That is why many countries have passed laws that regulate the take-back and proper recycling of batteries and include material restrictions.
In this context, the EU played a leading part and issued EU Directive 2006/66/EC for Waste Batteries and Accumulators. It establishes, for instance, uniform EU-wide collection and recycling quotas for waste batteries and accumulators as well as limits for the use of lead, cadmium and mercury. Manufacturers, importers and distributors of batteries and battery operated devices are responsible for taking back and disposing of waste batteries and accumulators.
Packaging represents reusable materials; that is secondary raw materials which can be used to produce new packaging or other products. To this end, they must be separated from residual waste, collected, sorted and recycled.
The EU passed the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62/EC in order to achieve this objective and at the same time counter the steady increase in packaging quantities. It also provides for the first time a so-called extended producer responsibility.
Many countries around the world have followed the EU’s example and have also implemented similar legislation. These include Macedonia, Belarus, Israel and Brazil as well as Asian countries like China and Japan.