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German NGO Denounces Inadequate WEEE Collection Systems and Insufficient Market Surveillance Concerning Energy Labelling

Environmental Action Germany (Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V. – DUH), a non-governmental environmental and consumer protection organisation, has investigated recovery systems for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). The recently published findings of their investigation in Germany reveal improper handling of hazardous waste, insufficient stationary collection points and hardly any information for consumers.

In Germany, since July 2016, retailers are legally obliged to take back WEEE due to the transposition of Directive 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment (the WEEE Directive). For the actual collection of WEEE, retailers often commission recycling companies.

Hong Kong sellers will be familiar with the key provisions and product scope of the WEEE Directive. The EU-wide law applies to all equipment running on an electric current, including refrigerators, washing machines, personal computers, television sets and radios, to name just a few examples. There are only very limited exceptions.

The DUH study shows that no examined collection system currently offers a simple and comprehensive collection for all types of equipment. Most systems resort to transport by post, which entails unforeseeable risks. During transport, old energy-saving bulbs might break, releasing mercury contained in them. The transport of flammable rechargeable batteries containing cadmium or other pollutants is particularly problematic, as the consumer might be held liable if damage occurs.

In order for consumers to easily and correctly dispose of their electronic waste all over Germany, DUH calls for one stationary collection centre in each of the approximately 8,000 postal code areas, and adequate information, presented in a noticeable fashion to consumers, on their right to return old WEEE.

DUH expects Germany to have missed the 45% WEEE collection target for 2016 and fears negative environmental consequences, as WEEE which is disposed of improperly can be lost for possible reuse or proper recycling. Therefore, valuable raw materials, which cannot be extracted from them, will be taken from nature elsewhere.

On a related note concerning electronics in Germany, DUH has assessed the performance of each of the 16 federal states in monitoring energy and efficiency labelling regulations. Under EU law, Member States have to ensure that energy and efficiency consumption information for household appliances is accurate, and to fine infringements.

DUH has evaluated the extent to which the state authorities are fulfilling their duties to monitor the market and also initiate regulatory offence procedures in the event of non-compliance. The results of the conducted survey reveal that most national authorities do not effectively monitor these environmental and consumer protection requirements.

The NGO established a ranking of the federal states, taking into account whether they carried out comprehensive market surveillance, conducted laboratory tests to check indicated efficiency values, and imposed sanctions in cases of confirmed non-compliance.

Only one federal state received a “green card”, meaning that it fulfilled all three of its obligations. Twelve were ranked in the middle, their “yellow card” attesting to only partially efficient monitoring and inconsistent enforcement, while three states even broke the monitoring rules, thus being rewarded with a “red card” as the worst performers.

DUH stated that in order to enable consumers to make informed product choices, it is essential to implement efficiency rules strictly and consistently. The EU climate protection goals already take into account estimated energy savings by consumers choosing more efficient products. However, these goals will not be reached if promises on labels are not kept by the actual product.

The full report is accessible on the DUH’s website (in German).

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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