Minimum Quality Standards Needed for the Treatment of WEEE

   16 Jul 2019

The European Electronic Recyclers Association (EERA) is calling on the European Commission to lay down a set of legally-binding minimum quality standards for the treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) across the European Union.

In accordance with the requirements of the WEEE Directive (article 8.5), the European Commission requested European Standardization Organisations (ESOs) to develop European standards (ENs) for the collection, logistics and treatment, including recovery, recycling and preparing for re-use, of WEEE. This Directive has since been amended to require WEEE facilities to comply with quality treatment standards in some member states, including Ireland. However, the absence of binding standards across the EU has distorted recycling markets, led to unfair competition and low-quality operations.

Regarding Ireland, while statutory Instrument SI 149 article 21 sets out that all Irish WEEE be treated to the European standard, this not been fully enforced as yet which again contributes to an uneven playing field for compliant companies.

Kurt Kyck, Managing Director of KMK Metals Recycling and EERA Board member, said: “As a fully-compliant WEEE treatment plant, there is a lot expected of us that non-compliant companies don’t concern themselves with - such as the requirement to invest in infrastructure to treat WEEE under cover and protect rain water run-off. Equally when substantial amounts of Irish household WEEE is being exported to non-compliant facilities overseas, Ireland is denied the added value gain from the treatment and resources. We need to make Ireland sustainable when it comes to managing its own waste.”

EERA is highlighting the benefits of all member states having to comply with the minimum standards, EN 50625 series, developed by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC). The impact would see reduced pollutant release into the environment and reduced contaminants transfer to recycled materials. There would be direct benefits for the WEEE treatment sector with increased revenues for materials and the reduced risk of emergency response situations related to flammable materials. The adoption of minimum standards would also lead to increased recovery of critical raw materials (CRMs) and the creation of employment.

Kurt Kyck, continued: “It is imperative that the WEEE industry is operating on a level-playing field. The CENELEC EN 50625 series standards do not go beyond the WEEE Directive but support the Directive by providing clear requirements for the industry. They were commended by the European Commission and already six EU member states, including Ireland, have made the standards mandatory, directly or indirectly. An independent assurance system to ensure auditing and certification of the standards is in place, accredited by WEEELABEX, and over 160 WEEE treatment plants in the EU, including KMK Metals Recycling, are already certified.”