Government Adopts Bill That Extends Right to Return Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment And Extends Scope of ElektroG to Solar Modules

Yesterday the government adopted a bill presented by the Environment Ministry (BMUB) to belatedly transpose Directive 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) into German law. The bill intends to increase the collection of WEEE to 65% by 2019, recycle more valuable secondary raw materials and dispose of residue in an environmentally friendly manner. To this end amendments of the Elektro- und Elektronikgerätegesetz (ElektroG) inter alia oblige large commerces, including e-commerce, to collect WEEE. The scope of the law shall be extended to include solar modules.

1. Background Information on Applicable ElektroG and Recycling Rate

Under the applicable ElektroG WEEE must not be disposed of as unsorted municipal waste (cf. Section 9 para. 1 ElektroG), but has to be collected separately. Collection is organised according to the laws of the sixteen German states (Länder) by designated waste management organisations (öffentlich-rechtliche Entsorgungsträger) which set up collection points to which household consumers (private Haushalte) can bring WEEE (cf. Section 9 para. 3 ElektroG). Producers are obliged to take back WEEE collected at collection points in accordance with Section 10 ElektroG. They also have to take back WEEE resulting from products put on the market after 13 August 2005 and sold to other users than household consumers (cf. Section 10 ElektroG). Distributors may voluntarily take back WEEE under the applicable ElektroG (cf. Section 9 para. 7 ElektroG).

According to the Association for Secondary Raw Materials and Disposal (bvse) an estimated 500,000 tons of WEEE are still not brought to recycling facilities in Germany each year so that they are not treated or disposed of properly.

2. Important Amendments

Important amendments as proposed by the bill are
  • To facilitate returning WEEE for consumers, large distributors, i.e. shops that sell electrical and electronical equipment in a sales area comprising more the 400 square metres, have to take back WEEE by household consumers when a similar new product is bought. WEEE with no external dimension exceeding 25 cm can be returned to large distributors without buying a new product. The obligations also apply to e-commerce. Instead of the sales area the 400 square metre threshold is calculated by taking into consideration storage and shipping space.
  • The scope of the law is extended to include all WEEE not explicitly exempted by 15 August 2018. In the transitional period WEEE as listed in the Annex is covered. With the proposed amendment solar modules and lightning equipment (Leuchten) used in private homes shall be included in the applicable list of WEEE in Annex 1.
  • The waste management objectives laid down in Section 1 sent. 2 ElektroG have been supplemented by the objective of more resource efficiency.
  • By 2016 the minimum collection rate shall be 45 %. It shall increase to 65% by 2013 (cf. new Section 10 para. 3). Calculations are made on the basis of the average weight of WEEE collected in the past three years.
  • In an effort to curb illegal exports, particularly to developping countries, the ElektroG transposes the WEEE Directive, setting minimum standards for exports.
For a detailed list of the changes under the amendment of the ElektroG (in German, please see here).

3. Next Steps

Directive 2012/19/EU was due for transposition into national law by 13 August 2014, so Germany is late in transposing the new WEEE provisions from the directive.

The bill will be submitted to Parliament (Bundestag) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat) that represents the interests of the sixteen German states. According to BMUB, Bundesrat will presumably hear the bill for the first time in May 2015. By late June respectively the beginning of July Bundestag readings of the bill shall take place. The second reading by Bundesrat shall presumably occur in September 2015.

Source: Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety

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