The WEEE Forum recently published a paper outlining the issues associated with the treatment of WEEE as metal scrap and has called on the competent authorities to take appropriate action.
The paper discusses how treating WEEE as metal scrap is problematic and encourages those responsible to penalise facilities that do so.
The practice of collecting or purchasing WEEE and handling it together with metal scrap is, unfortunately, a common practice in Europe and globally. This situation gives rise to environmental, health and safety issues because hazardous substances may likely not have been adequately removed or extracted. It also gives rise to compliance issues because WEEE collected and treated as metal scrap escapes the official routes that count towards reaching the collection targets set in WEEE legislation; attaining these targets has become very hard.
The attainment of the collection targets requires a redirection of WEEE tonnages into the officially reported flows. Competent authorities must prohibit the practice of purchasing and processing metal scrap that contains WEEE unless they are treated and processed by facilities that are officially permitted or certified to do so. They must develop targeted, systematic enforcement actions to identify facilities that treat WEEE as scrap and penalise them. A lot of the issues result from failure of the operator permitting system; policies which mandate the scrap sector in the reporting of WEEE are called for.
Lucia Herreras, Deputy Director-General of the WEEE Forum and one of the authors of the report said:
‘’Proper treatment should be ensured for WEEE collected with scrap by making sure that facilities that process scrap containing WEEE are approved by the relevant authority and achieve acceptable standards. In this way, it can be ensured that the WEEE that they handle is processed correctly and, importantly, it is recorded separately so it can be included in the figures reported against collection targets.”
Due to low levels of enforcement activity, and PROs not having access to scrap facilities for data collection, reliable information on the WEEE tonnages affected by these practices is scarce. Finding an appropriate, harmonised methodology to collect data about how much WEEE disappears in the metal scrap stream is crucial to understand what is going on in the e-waste market.
Member States can use substantiated estimates, as referred to in Article 16 of the Directive, provided WEEE not properly treated stays out of the equation, otherwise, it creates an unlevel playing field for the other Member States in achieving the collection targets in Europe.
The issues associated with WEEE in metal scrap will be discussed with representatives of the United Nations (which is the author of a recent WEEE Flows report), the European Commission and the stakeholder’s community at a WEEE Forum event on 24 November 2020, in Brussels and online. Registration to the event will open soon.