Thursday

23rd Feb 2017

Electronic gadgets: less EU dumping in Africa

  • Burkina Faso dump: scavenged electronic items often contain harmful substances (Photo: Marco Bellucci)

The European Parliament on Thursday (20 January) said the EU should toughen-up a new law aimed at reducing the mountains of discarded electronic gadgets from Europe that end up in landfills and dumps in developing countries.

The sector is currently governed by legislation dating back to 2003. The European Commission had proposed to set new mandatory collection targets equal to 65 percent of the average weight of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market in each member state.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But MEPs have said up to 85 percent of all discarded printers, TVs, mobile phones - and just about anything else with electronic circuitry - to be collected and properly recovered by each member state starting in 2016.

Depending on the category, MEPs want 70 percent to 85 percent of the waste to be recovered and another 50 percent to 75 percent recycled. They propose a separate 5 percent re-use target so that more functional goods get a new lease of life instead of being scrapped.

"We can no longer afford to waste our waste. Parliament has sent a strong message that public authorities, manufacturers and consumers all need to play their part to ensure we collect and recycle more of our electrical and electronic goods. We have also set out stricter rules to stop potentially harmful waste being illegally shipped to developing countries," said Karl-Heinz Florenz, a German MEP from the centre-right group EPP.

The parliament proposals - passed by a whopping 580-strong majority - will now be taken by EU countries before the bill becomes law.

A Danish investigative journalist club, DanWatch revealed last November that the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy and Spain are the top seven European countries that export used computers to, for instance, Ghana.

Around 40 percent of the scrap ends up in the African country's Agbogbloshie dumpsite where thousands of people - including children - rummage through it to extract small amounts of valuable components like silver, gold, palladium, copper and indium.

Electric devices also contain hazardous substances such as lead, cadmium and mercury.

Cadmium is particularly toxic and is found in rechargeable computer batteries as well as contacts and switches in older CRT monitors. Mercury is used in lighting devices in flat screen TVs and can damage the nervous system. Long-term exposure to the substances, according to DanWatch, can result in infertility, miscarriage, tumors, endocrine diseases and birth defects.

To help tackle the problem, customers in the EU can return unwanted electronic devices free of charge to large shops who will then dispose of the object in accordance with the updated law. Larger items, like refrigerators and freezers, are to be recycled by the manufacturer.

"Europe will now recover more raw materials, which is excellent news both for the economy and for the environment," Florenz said.

Commission targets Africa in EU drive for raw materials

Europe's development policy and external lending practices should play a greater role in securing raw materials from key producer regions such as Africa, the European Commission is set to propose in a new policy paper on Wednesday.

Focus

Crowded race to win EU medicines agency

As cities line up to take over the European Medicines Agency some fear a kerfuffle that could destabilise the agency's work and slow down the pace of approving new medicines.

Stakeholder

Fighting environmental injustice in Europe

In the face of new threats from multinational companies, global environmental justice movements are springing into action in an unfamiliar arena - Europe.

Opinion

Romania, the endless anti-corruption race

Romanians take to the streets in anti-government protests due to a proposed amendment to the country's anti-corruption legislation. But will this have any effect?

Focus

Crowded race to win EU medicines agency

As cities line up to take over the European Medicines Agency some fear a kerfuffle that could destabilise the agency's work and slow down the pace of approving new medicines.

News in Brief

  1. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree
  2. Dozens drown off Libyan coast
  3. EU ministers approve anti-tax avoidance directive
  4. Poland rejects EU criticism of court changes
  5. German nationalist leader met with Putin allies in Moscow
  6. German housing market overheated, says Bundesbank
  7. France invites three EU leaders for Versailles summit in March
  8. Greece agrees on new bailout reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  2. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  3. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  4. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  5. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  7. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  9. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  10. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  11. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe