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Spain Makes Recycling of Cartridges and Toners Mandatory

If consumers were to buy a similar product in a sales establishment, the latter will be obliged to accept the discarded cartridge or tonner free of charge. Consumers have a one-month period to bring back the discarded goods, upon proof of the purchase of the new product. In the event of online purchases, where the product is delivered to the purchaser’s home, the same provisions apply and the consumer has the right to hand the discarded goods to the delivery person.

For stores with bigger premises selling these kinds of products (comprising more than 400 square metres), there are additional obligations, since they must accept any WEEE of fewer than 25 centimetres, regardless of whether new purchases are being made by consumers or not.

However, this change in the legislation has not only affected cartridges and toners; more products have been included under the scope of what constitutes an ‘electric or electronic device’. On this matter, plugs, sensors, relays, emergency switches, domestic lights or generation, transformation, accumulation and measurement devices will also have to be recycled in accordance with the new rules.

The expansion of the scope of the legal provision has the aim of encompassing as many electrical and electronic devices as possible, thereby increasing the number of recyclable products related to some extent to electronics. The Spanish Consumers Defence Association (“Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios - OCU”) considers that this is a very important and necessary step forward, both to avoid damaging the environment and to recover reusable resources. Nevertheless, the OCU also suggested that a progressive change in consumers’ and businesses’ mind-sets should be introduced within society by substituting the manufacture of the electronic components that all of these products may contain, with other less polluting materials, as long as this is both efficient and possible.

Some well-known companies, such as Hewlett Packard (HP), one of the main players in this sector, are launching campaigns to make people aware of the need to recycle these types of discarded products.  This is due to the fact that many among the public (consumers and companies) still put this type of waste in ordinary bins and are not aware of how polluting this could be. The company claims that it is “one of the most important habits that people should adopt in order to preserve natural resources and eventually protect human health”. In fact, the destruction of cartridges is currently among the most polluting processes for the environment. In Spain, nearly 30 million cartridges are consumed each year and the destination, after use of almost 50% of them, is unknown. That is precisely one of the main reasons why these new rules have been adopted.

In line with the same objective, Recyclia’s activity should be considered. Recyclia is an environmental platform, which, through its foundations, has established more than 500 recycling points for cartridges and toners throughout the Spanish territory and is aiming to reach 42,000 by 2020. Recyclia has been working for the last 15 years on recycling all sorts of electrical and electronic devices, mostly related to information and communication technologies (ICT). At the same time, its intention is to keep investing in order to build better infrastructures to manage the recycling of WEEE. The most known foundation is Ecofimática (which is part of Recyclia), representing 90% of the producers in this sector at a Spanish level.

Google also came forward in favour of these measures in the launching of its new App, Nubeprint, which can be obtained for free in its Play Store. This App makes it possible to check the levels of ink in cartridges, to encourage optimal use and avoid discarding goods before they are completely used up.

The legal modifications that have been discussed above have not come about in isolation, but within an integrated strategy of the new Spanish government to develop and tackle the problems that global warming and climate change are triggering. The corollary of such a strategy is the upcoming Law on Climate Change and Ecological Transition that the Spanish Government will present in the coming weeks.

The recycling of waste cartridges and toners has become mandatory in Spain since mid-August this year, pursuant to Spanish Royal Decree 110/2015 which was published on 20 February 2015.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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