MEP calls on government to make recycling electronic waste easier
'Britain lags behind other countries when it comes to recycling electrical waste, so now the government should implement in full new EU rules that require recycling points in major shops'- according to Labour MEP for the North East, Stephen Hughes, following a plenary vote in the European Parliament today.
"At the moment only one third of UK electrical waste is properly recycled and treated. Electrical waste is the fastest-growing waste stream in theUK. We currently get through 1.2 million tonnes a year - the weight equivalent of 150 thousand double-decker buses," said Stephen Hughes.
"And this will go up as we get through electrical products at a faster rate - on average the electrical products we buy are thrown away after just 5 years. It can be difficult at the moment in the UK to find your nearest collection point, particularly without a car. So people end up throwing things in the bin where it can end up in landfill or simply hoarding them at home.
"Britain is low down the European recycling league. If you look at the "small household electrical waste" category, then Denmark and Germany collect three times as much as we do per person. The UK must try and do a lot better.
"If the new EU rules are implemented in full, from June 2013 consumers will be able to return any small unwanted electrical items such as toasters and hairdryers to large electrical retailers, in a bid to increase the amount of electrical waste we recycle. I'd like to see the British government follow the highest European standards as soon as possible and not opt out of this.
"Increasing the amount of electronic equipment recycled will also be better for the environment and mean more valuable elements and parts of electronic equipment are recovered.
“In landfill, electrical waste often leaks toxic chemicals and hazardous substances, so by improving recycling rates we will improve our local environment too. Many electrical items also contain extremely rare and expensive materials like gold, platinum and titanium, the cost of which continues to rise. Rather than simply throwing them out, by increasingly levels of recycling we will be able to recover more of the valuable elements used in electrical equipment,” said Stephen Hughes, Vice-President of the Socialist & Democrat Group in the European Parliament.
The improved regulations will also combat the illegal exporting of electronic waste, often to developing countries were the local people and environment can be exposed to toxic chemicals. While there are already laws in place that make it illegal to ship waste to developing countries, exporters must now prove that each shipment contains working goods rather than waste to be dumped.
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The new rules (revision of the WEEE Directive) will also mean more ambitious collection targets for electrical waste. From 2019, Member States will have to ensure that 85% of electrical waste is collected separately from household waste (for the UK this will mean having to more than double collection rates). These high targets should mean that there is less possibility for electrical waste to "leak" out of the system and end up being illegally shipped to Africa.