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Electronic Retailers In Europe Now Required To Take Back Old Goods 162

Posted by timothy
from the also-you-must-never-go-bankrupt dept.
Qedward writes with this excerpt about the EU approach to E-waste: "A European Union law that will require all large electronic retailers to take back old equipment came into force yesterday. The new rules are part of a shake-up of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and will gradually be implemented across the EU over the next seven years. Waste electrical and electronic equipment, or WEEE, is one the fastest growing waste streams in the EU, but currently only one-third of electrical and electronic waste is separately collected and appropriately treated. Systematic collection and proper treatment is essential for recycling materials like gold, silver, copper and rare metals in used TVs, laptops and mobile phones."
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Electronic Retailers In Europe Now Required To Take Back Old Goods

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  • by Viol8 (599362) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:03AM (#40983347)

    If manufacturers have to go to the trouble of recycling their goods they might be tempted to make them more reliable rather than having 10K TVs that died 1 day after their warranty ran out sitting in their warehouse. Or alternatively perhaps we'll go back to goods that are designed to be repaired more easily instead of being junked just because 1 capacitor blew that could be replaced for pennies.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:08AM (#40983397)

      If manufacturers have to go to the trouble of recycling their goods they might be tempted to make them more reliable rather than having 10K TVs that died 1 day after their warranty ran out sitting in their warehouse. Or alternatively perhaps we'll go back to goods that are designed to be repaired more easily instead of being junked just because 1 capacitor blew that could be replaced for pennies.

      Bit of both. Electronics that will die one day after the warranty runs out but consist of otherwise usable parts that can be put in a shiny case and sold as new. Training consumers to give them back all the equipment when it fails is the next step in planned obsolescence; planned obsolescence AND RESALE.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        BTW when my stuff does eventually die, I dispose of it through selling on ebay. There's always someone who is a hacker who wants to either repair it to restore functionality, or use it for parts.

        And also: I thought the EU Parliament does not pass laws? The summary calls this a "law" but Europeans on /. always claim the EU does not have that power. Only the States can pass laws. (confuseD)

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          I suspect only 1% or less of products get recycled that way by having someone else repair it. Most of the products are trashed instead.

        • by the_arrow (171557)

          Also, the headline says "Europe", and there are still many European countries that are not members of the EU.

      • I believe that would require a lot more standardization and designing for reusabilty than what is common today.

        I'm one of those guys who like to tinker with old electronics, and what I get to see is a wild jumble of one-off designs that are made to fit one particular device, but have little chance of fitting into next year's model.
        There is one notable exception. The computer industry (in particular desktop parts) has mostly exchangable parts, and except for stuff getting obsolete, many parts could in fact b

        • by mikael (484)

          I've worked for a number of companies who used to design their own circuit boards. As memory chips tended to "fry" under testing conditions, everyone tried to grab as many as they could. So old PC's were cannabalized of useful bits before they went to the recycling center. When somebody left, the vultures would circle, gather round their desk picking and making off with cables, memory chips and manuals.

          Even my last university would pre-salvage all damaged PC's being sent back to Dell. Whatever working parts

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "If manufacturers have to go to the trouble of recycling their goods they might be tempted to make them more reliable"

      How is this logical? State mandated processing of waste will be taken as a cost and passed on to the consumer, like it always is. Why do you believe this legislation will somehow change the fundamentals of economics?

      • Why do you feel, as a consumer, that you wouldn't have to pay for it?, if you're the one using the product, why wouldn't you be responsible for the entire lifecycle of the product?

        There's one point where we have to start to understand that we need to make responsible use of what we buy. Products should be much more expensive and durable, and should be manufactured and dumped responsibly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Teun (17872)
      Indeed, one might hope...

      But already for many years similar legislation has been in place in a couple of EU member states and I've yet to see a turning of the curve to more sustainable equipment.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      alternatively make them easier to recycle. If the components weren't a complete mismash of every type of rare metal known to man, they might be a lot easier to melt down and reuse.

      There are a lot of places [emrgroup.com] that you can drop off metals for recycling - metal recycling rates are so high I can take an old copper heatsink (from a 1U server) and get £4 for it's scrap value. Steel chassis and parts are also valuable. Its the cost of recycling the circuit boards that has a negative value, so you don't g

      • by vlm (69642)

        Its the cost of recycling the circuit boards that has a negative value, so you don't get to drop an appliance off and receive a bit of cash.

        Electronic appliances, yes. For some weird reason the local scrappers would pick up an old/broken kitchen oven and give you $25, at least that was the case a couple years ago. All other appliances were merely picked up for free. So buy a new "whatever", put the old one out, make a call, and in a couple hours or less a truck picks it up and hauls it away for free.

        If you own a $50K pickup truck that gets 8 MPG you can load the appliance in the truck bed and deliver it yourself for a couple bucks, but its a

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Actually, the people who do the actual refining disagree - doing the meltdown is actually far easier on an electronics waste stream than extracting it out from the ground - the concentrations are much higher and the usual extraction processes work just as well, except generating more product.

        And yes, they also consider mining landfills for the same reason - a rich resource of raw materials.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Isn't there some left coast electronics store famous for taking broken returned items and putting them back on the shelf for resale?

      I find it extremely likely that if you return a "broken" TV someone else will be buying it. Maybe as a "display model" as-is for 5% off.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        In my experience, if an item fails during the warranty period (which is quite long, by law, in the UK) the company will replace it very quickly, often with a refurbished item. Presumably, they then attempt to fix what you send them.

    • Or alternatively perhaps we'll go back to goods that are designed to be repaired more easily instead of being junked just because 1 capacitor blew that could be replaced for pennies.

      Pay your labor force pennies, and buy the cheapest possible crap capacitor... and you'll get your replacement costs down to a few nickels.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      >>>10K TVs that died 1 day after their warranty

      Ya know..... I've heard this complaint my whole life. Yes people have been complaining, "They don't make things like they used to" for decades. And yet I have a Sears TV built in the 70s that still works.

      A Panasonic 80s radio that still works (though the cassette player runs too slow). An XP-PC that is ten years old and still runs. A N64 that still plays games. A PS2 that is eleven years old and still plays games. A cellphone I bought in 1999 tha

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I agree here. Too many companies treat their products as disposable. Especially Apple which goes out of its way to make their cult followers throw away their gadgets in less than a year, or purchase a new replacement if the battery dies, or have them "recycled" where they get sent to poor countries to be broken apart and put into landfills.

  • by SkunkPussy (85271) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:06AM (#40983381) Journal

    This is a really important step forward for the environment.

  • They now charge a 'recycling fee' on new electronic appliances. This goes from a couple of cents for small electronics to a couple of euros for fridges.
    • How is this the same? This bill is forcing retailers to accept your old equipment for recycling. As in, you have an old laptop that works or doesn't work, you want to throw it out. Now you can take it to the retailer and deposit it there.

      Environment fee is not the same thing, though both apples and oranges are fruit.
      • How is this the same? This bill is forcing retailers to accept your old equipment for recycling. As in, you have an old laptop that works or doesn't work, you want to throw it out. Now you can take it to the retailer and deposit it there. Environment fee is not the same thing, though both apples and oranges are fruit.

        Correct. And since they can't legally charge to accept your old equipment they add a fee on to the new equipment they sell. Sounds like apples to apples (or PCs to PCs) to me.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        retailers have been forced in most areas of eu to already take your old equipment and gather a fee associated with that..

        you have been able to dump your old electronics at any electronics store in finland for the past.. dunno, 10+ years.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        It is not, but in that case it is no real problem for the retailer either. Have a pallet in the back for this stuff, when pallet is full call recycler. I have this done at work all the time, they pay 1 cent per pound for that sort of unsorted electronics. The pickup fee is normally covered by that.

    • France has been doing the same thing, but that's not the same WEEE. The one you're talking about is this one [europa.eu], dated from 2003. The "eco-tax" has been applied since 2005, IIRC.

      The main difference, as I understand it, is that the 2003 WEEE left it up to the member state to define which scheme to implement, in order to recoup the costs of recycling electronic goods:

      From this website [conformance.co.uk]:

      It is important to note that the WEEE Directive does not stipulate how its aims should be achieved and the system therefore currently varies between member states. A new WEEE Directive is proposed for publication in early 2012 that should solve this problem, among others.

    • Likewise, but while a laudable intiative, its important to keep track of the whole process. A lot of that e-waste, maybe even the majority, gets smuggled out and dumped into developing countries where villagers burn the stuff in their fields to get what they can out of it.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/science/earth/27waste.html?pagewanted=all [nytimes.com]
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/electronic-waste-developing-world [guardian.co.uk]

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      They now charge a 'recycling fee' on new electronic appliances. This goes from a couple of cents for small electronics to a couple of euros for fridges.

      Ah that's just great. Of course, I've had old computers refused here in Ontario because they were built by me, instead of nice and you know made by a manufacturer. Until I pointed out that under the OERF that's illegal. Yep, places here were very happy to start collecting that fee.

  • There are 2 Ace Hardware stores in my town. One of them recycles CFL bulbs for free, no matter where you buy them. The other does not offer this service. Therefore I refuse to spend money at the non-recycling Ace Hardware. I take my money to the store that does the recycling. The market of 'me' is demanding recycling services of retailers.
    • by isorox (205688)

      There are 2 Ace Hardware stores in my town. One of them recycles CFL bulbs for free, no matter where you buy them. The other does not offer this service. Therefore I refuse to spend money at the non-recycling Ace Hardware. I take my money to the store that does the recycling. The market of 'me' is demanding recycling services of retailers.

      I simply refuse to buy CFL in the first place - horrible technology, from the poisons inside it to the "brightness" of the bulb.

    • by Khashishi (775369)

      The idea that the free market can take care of this assumes that a meaningful fraction of customers give a shit about this kind of stuff.

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:39AM (#40983757)

    In many cases, electronics that are supposed to be recycled really aren't. Instead, they are dumped in the Third World [pbs.org] where they cause all kinds of environmental problems.

    Even when some actual recycling is done, it is likely to make the impact on the environment worse, not better, than if it was just dumped in a landfill. See this article [softpedia.com] for some details (with photos) of how an electronics "recycling" operation in China threatens both the environment and worker safety. Of course, it's all about the Benjamins: "Sending a monitor to China costs about ten cents. Actually recycling it costs several dollars."

    If the European Union wants this regulation to have a positive impact, they need to stipulate that the equipment be recycled locally under EU safety and environmental standards – not just exported to Ghana or China and down the memory hole.

    • by delt0r (999393)
      Find the shiny! [comedycentral.com]
    • by bazorg (911295)

      Hi.

      I have been involved in this reverse logistics business for a while and was responsible for getting a few hundred thousand mobile phones back from consumers' hands to where the devices could be processed.

      There was not a big conspiracy or mistery around what happened with the phones. Despite some envious consumers disaproving or it, those phones good enough to have a market value were wiped out and sold as different grades of "used". Some would get new covers and looked new, while other were B grade and s

    • by timeOday (582209)

      In many cases, electronics that are supposed to be recycled really aren't. Instead, they are dumped in the Third World where they cause all kinds of environmental problems...

      If the European Union wants this regulation to have a positive impact, they need to stipulate that the equipment be recycled locally under EU safety and environmental standards

      I hate to spoil the article for you but...

      The revised directive also includes a clampdown on illegal exports of waste electronic equipment. Equipment that is

  • by guttentag (313541) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @10:09AM (#40984091) Journal

    Waste electrical and electronic equipment, or WEEE, is one the fastest growing waste streams in the EU, but currently only one-third of electrical and electronic waste is separately collected and appropriately treated.

    The French had no arguments with this proposal, "Oui! We have been recycling our WEEE for some time now, and selling it to the Americans as 'eau de toilette.' We find this is a very profitable arrangement that also supports our sense of national pride. Now go away or I shall spray it on you a second time!"

  • I wonder if they will charge for the waste disposal fee like they do with tires here in the USA. I buy a new tire and they bill me a dollar to dispose of it or the dollar they charge me to get rid of the oil when I do an oil change. OR will it be more like Best Buy where you bring in your stuff and they will tell you how much they will give you for it since you have to buy a new item, or will take it off your hands for free. Although they don't take back certain things.
  • It is because councils, who (in the UK) are/were responsible for dealing with waste, don't want to be bothered. Now the retailers will have it on their hands.

    Such goods are already treated separately. Ever tried to get a TV or washing machine into a wheelie bin with the rest of the rubbish?
  • In Canada, every half decent city has one or two places that recycles electronics, and if you want a cheap computer, then you can go there and buy one for about $50. The city dumps also accept fridges, batteries, tyres, computers, paint, chemicals and whatever for recycling/safe disposal. Best Buy, Staples and others will also take old electronics and toss it in a corner, then call the recycler when there is a truck load.
  • Not only are they forced to take old electronics back for free, they also report you to the police if you try to remove anything from their forced junkpile.
    There is really big money in this received hardware, both in it's recycle and on getting it out of circulation so you buy the new products.
    If you head off a guy who is about to throw away some old hardware however, they get really unsure about how to treat you. They want to claim you are stealing, but at the same time they are unsure about from whom...

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