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Factor Four: Doubling Wealth and Halving Resource Usage

E-Waste Education Course One

Undergraduate Level

Lecture 3: A Global Movement - Who is Doing What & Where?



Educational Aim

Across the world many countries have regulations and law to respond to the challenge of E-Waste. RMIT & Product Ecology[1] studies show that Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark have either a landfill ban or material bans in their take-back legislation; and that Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Italy and Japan have either collection and/or recycling targets in legislation. Some of the strictest regulations are the European Union's 'Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment' (WEEE) directive; 'Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment' (RoHS) directive, and 'Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals' (REACH). The European Union's laws have influenced the governments of many countries, particularly Asian countries where e-product is manufactured, to introduce matching laws so that their products can meet the standards for import into the counties of the European Union.


Brief Background Information


Summary of Leading Legislation in E-Waste

1.   On average the legislation in European countries focuses on e-products such as white goods, brown goods and lighting, rather than computing equipment, however the following examples show that e-products are being considered:[2]

•  1997 Italian waste management decree setting out take-back and recovery obligations for certain ICT equipment.

•  1998 regulation in the Flemish Region of Belgium, requiring manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to take back all ICT equipment free of charge.

•  1998 ordinance in Switzerland on the take-back and disposal of waste from electrical and electronic equipment.

•  1998 regulation in Norway on the acceptance, collection, recycling and disposal of waste from electrical and electronic equipment.

•  1999 order in Denmark making local authorities responsible for collection and recovery of ICT equipment (funded by local taxes or collection fees).

•  Producer responsibility obligations in Sweden which allow customers buying a new product to return an old product of the same type free of charge. Producers are also obliged to provide information on the content of the equipment when requested by pre-treatment operators.

2.  The EU now has rules for battery collection. Associated Press[3] reports: 'The European Union was expected to agree on new rules for collecting and recycling batteries to limit pollution caused when they are incinerated or buried in leaky landfill sites, a program estimated to cost industry at least euro200 million (US$253 million)... By 2012, a quarter of all batteries sold must be collected once they run out. By 2016, the target will rise to 45 percent. The rules also determine how they must be recycled once collected... If companies are to take cell phones and computers back cost-effectively, the products' design will have to change to make them easier to recycle. This could actually save companies money because they'd favor simpler designs with fewer parts.'

3.  In a world-first legislation of its kind in 1998, the Taiwanese Government introduced the 'Environmental Protection Administration Recycling Management Fund' to support and facilitate the collection, transportation and disposal of computers, printers, household appliances, televisions and air conditioners. Financially, the fund is maintained by recycling fees for computer manufacturers.[4]

4.   Japan is countering E-Waste by mandating upstream design criteria and requiring the take-back of selected e-products.[5] In 2000, the approval of a 'Basic Law for Establishing a Recycling-based Society' saw the start of several specific recycling laws.[6] For example, since 2001, Japanese Businesses have been required to recycle PCs; and since 2003, manufacturers have been required to collect and recycle used computers, with costs subsidised by a 3000-4000 yen (AU$34-45) per unit fee absorbed into the purchase cost.[7]

5.   Another law to emerge from the Basic Law is discussed by Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd:[8] 'The Law for Recycling of Specified Kinds of Home Appliances [SHAR] (effective as of April 2001) obligates Japanese manufacturers, retailers and consumers to share the cost of disposing of televisions, refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners. Manufacturers are required to meet designated recycling rates for each product, and to safely dispose of any hazardous materials. Larger manufacturers have set consistent prices for take-back of goods, and established recycling plants to handle both materials covered by the Act and other electronic goods. Retailers are obliged to pick up discarded appliances and return them to manufacturers, with consumers contributing towards the cost of transportation and recycling.' Japan 's Ministerial Order sets reuse and recycling rate targets for various products at 50-60 percent by weight.[9]

6.  'Another US trial, which was unique in its development approach, was conducted by the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance (MOEA). The MOEA established a partnership with the American Plastics Council, Panasonic- Matsushita, Sony Electronics Inc and a waste management company, each of which provided funding for the trial. The MOEA called for and received participation by a range of organisations, including Local Government, electronics retailers and waste management contractors... The MOEA and its partners managed the transportation and disposal of the collected material from the 65 collection sites involved in the 3 month program... The trial provided drop-off facilities for electrical equipment to approximately 1.3 million people and collected around 700 tonnes of material.'[10]


Standard for Environmental Assessment of Personal Computer Products (EEE1680TM)[11]

In May 2006 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency along with the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association announced a new voluntary environmental performance standard to help large computer buyers make environmentally sound purchases. The new standard - IEEE 1680TM, 'Standard for Environmental Assessment of Personal Computer Products' - was initiated by a group of manufacturers, environmentalists, and purchasers, and developed with support from the US EPA.

'Determining which computers are environmentally preferable is a challenge for companies, government agencies and other organizations, ' said Jeff Scott, the EPA's waste division director for the Pacific Southwest region. ' This standard will change the marketplace and measurably reduce the environmental impacts of computers. It is an excellent example of government, industry, environmentalists and academics collaborating to address an issue and improve the environment'.[12]

According to the EPA, IEEE 1680 is the first U.S. standard to supply environmental guidelines for institutional purchasing decisions involving desktop and laptop computers and monitors. It offers criteria in eight categories - materials selection, environmentally sensitive materials, design for end of life, end-of-life management, energy conservation, product longevity and life-cycle extension, packaging, and corporate performance. The new standard will encourage manufacturers to design their products to be used longer, be more energy efficient, easier to upgrade and recycle, and contain less hazardous materials.

'IEEE 1680 will foster green product design by setting challenging, yet realistic criteria for environmental performance, ' says Larry Chalfan, co-chair of the IEEE 1680 Working Group and Executive Director of the Zero Waste Alliance, which ran the process to develop the standard. ' It creates mechanisms for identifying and verifying that computer products meet these criteria without delaying time to market. It also rewards leading product designs by giving manufacturers a low-cost way to promote product environmental performance.'[13]

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
European Union
[14] describes the objectives of its Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive:

The purpose of this Directive is, as a first priority, the prevention of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), and in addition, the reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery of such wastes so as to reduce the disposal of waste. It also seeks to improve the environmental performance of all operators involved in the life cycle of electrical and electronic equipment, e.g. producers, distributors and consumers and in particular those operators directly involved in the treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment.

European Union is rigorous in its stipulations, detailing the families of products that fall under the directive. The next major target is an average waste collection rate of four kilograms per capita annually by 31 December 2006. The directive has been criticised for being unfair to countries outside the European Union (EU) and even for being illegal. The American Electronics Association (AEA), which has 300 member companies, claimed that the directive would violate international trade law obligations with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by imposing requirements on foreign manufacturers.[15] However, after investigation, the AEA's claim was deemed unfounded.[16]

Restriction of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS)

European Union[17] describes the objectives of its Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (ROHS) directive:

The purpose of this Directive is to approximate the laws of the Member States on the restrictions of the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and to contribute to the protection of human health and the environmentally sound recovery and disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment.

The directive stipulates that manufacturers cannot use lead, mercury, cadmium or hexavalent chromium, or the brominated flame retardants PBDE and PBB in products from July 1, 2006.[18

The EU's RoHS directive is set to impact the Asian economies, whose industries supply a large amount of the world's e-products. A survey of 359 electronics manufacturers in Greater China and South Korea that export to Europe found that 51 percent are RoHS-compliant.[19] By June 2006, this figure is expected to be 93.3 percent.[20] However, some expect the directives to increase the manufacturing costs, at least during the transition period.

In response to the directive,


The Chinese government is developing its own China RoHS law, which is likely to be broader in scope and even more comprehensive than the EU directive. The new legislation will apply to every participant in the electronics supply chain, from manufacturers and distributors to importers and retailers. And unlike the EU's 'self-certification' approach, the new law will require every product to be tested before it is allowed entry into China . All products sold in China or imported to the country will be required to comply with the law as of January 2007.
The new laws, if implemented in a timely fashion, will help offset the impacts of the EU directives.[22]

Like China, Taiwan is also expected to feel the impact of the EU's WEEE and RoHS directives. Taiwan 's export of EEE to the EU is worth an average of $10 billion.[23]

According to the semi-official Industrial Technology Research Institute, the WEEE and RoHS directives could increase costs between 3 percent and 5 percent for branded electrical and electronics product vendors and raise producers' manufacturing costs from 5 percent to 10 percent.[24]

Preparations to accommodate the directives are underway. 'According to a survey conducted by the bureau, 63 percent of domestic manufacturers have started to prepare for WEEE regulation, while 87 percent of them said they have begun to comply with RoHS'.[25]

Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH)
Council of the European Commission[26] describes the purpose of its proposed Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) regulatory framework:

The purpose of this Regulation is to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment as well as the free circulation of substances on the internal market while enhancing competitiveness and innovation.

Under REACH, chemical producers and importers whose volume is at least one ton per year must register those chemicals with a Chemicals Agency.[27] Producers and importers must also disclose safety information so their chemicals can be used with minimal hazard. Each registered chemical and proposal for animal testing is evaluated. For those chemicals that cause cancer, mutation or problems with reproduction, or chemicals that bioaccumulate - authorisation that is use-specific must be sought.[28] This restriction on highly hazardous chemicals is expected to encourage substitution with safer chemicals.[29] The regulation was first proposed in 2003 and has since been through revisions and the Council has produced a Common Position. The final agreement and adoption of the proposal is expected by the end of 2006. [30]





1. RMIT & Product Ecology (2004) Electrical and electronic products infrastructure facilitation, RMIT & Product Ecology, p. 32. (viewed 9 May 2006) (Back)

2. Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd (2001) Computer & peripherals material project, Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd, p. 55. (viewed 10 May 2006) (Back)

3. Associated Press (2006) EU to agree on new battery recycling plan, officials say, Environmental News Network. (viewed 5 May 2006) (Back)

4. Environment Victoria (2005) Environmental report card on computers 2005: computer waste in Australia and the case for producer responsibility, Environment Victoria, p. 30. (viewed 9 July 2006) (Back)

Puckett, J., Byster, L., Westervelt, S., Gutierrez, R., Davis, S., Hussain, A. and Dutta, M. (2002) Exporting harm: the high-tech trashing of Asia, Basel Action Network, p. 4. (viewed 1 May 2006); OECD (2001) Extended Producer Responsibility: A guidance manual for governments, OECD, p. 105. (viewed 12 May 2006) (Back)

6. Environment Victoria (2005) Environmental report card on computers 2005: computer waste in Australia and the case for producer responsibility, Environment Victoria, p. 29. (viewed 9 July 2006) (Back)

7. Ibid (Back)

8. Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd (2001) Computer & peripherals material project, Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd, p. 57-58. (viewed 10 May 2006) (Back)

9. Article 4, Ministerial Order cited in Tojo, N. (2005) Extended producer responsibility as a driver for design change - utopia or reality?, Lund University, Sweden, p. 78.$webAll/

8D43CC08DD00501DC1256EFA0051513B/$FILE/tojo.pdf (viewed 9 May 2006) (Back)

10. Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd (2001) Computer & peripherals material project, Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd, p. 72-74.

computer-report/index.html (viewed 10 May 2006) (Back)

11. US Environmental Protection Agency (2006) New voluntary standard will help purchasers buy greener computers, US EPA. F779347455F5DEE08525716

A0077497B?OpenDocument (viewed 28 March 2007). (Back)

12. Ibid

13. Ibid (Back)

14. European Union (2003a) 'Directive 2002/96/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 2003 on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)', Official Journal of the European Union. (viewed 1 May 2006) (Back)

15. Hunter, R. and Lopez, M. (1999) Position of the American Electronics Association (AEA) on the European Commission's draft directive on Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment WEEE), Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition. (viewed 12 May 2006); Knight, D. (2000) Sony monitoring environmental activists, Interpress. (viewed 8 May 2006) (Back)

16. Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (1999) Clean computer campaign: analysis of the AEA claims that the proposed European Directive on Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE Directive) will conflict with the WTO trade rules, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.

ccc_aea.htm (viewed 8 May 2006) (Back)

17. European Union (2003b) 'Directive 2002/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 2003 on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment ', Official Journal of the European Union.

l_03720030213en00190023.pdf (viewed 1 May 2006) (Back)

18. Bannerman, M. (2004) Phone recycling claims called into doubt, Australian Broadcasting Commission.

s1260911.htm (viewed 7 May 2006) (Back)

19. Global Sources (2005) RoHS compliance readiness survey: mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, Global Sources, p. 3. (viewed 15 May 2006) (Back)

20. Ibid (Back)

21. Li, Z. (2006) EU "Green" Directives cast challenge to China 's electronics industry, Worldwatch Institute.

stories/20060222-1 (viewed 15 May 2006) (Back)

22. China View (2005) Electronic waste poses mounting challenge, China Daily. (viewed 9 May 2006) (Back)

23. Global Sources (2005) RoHS compliance readiness survey: mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, Global Sources, p. 3. (viewed 15 May 2006) (Back)

24. Ho, J. (2005) Two environmental Rules to be upheld in Taiwan, Taipei Times. (viewed 9 May 2006) (Back)

25. Ibid (Back)

26. Council of the European Commission (2006) Regulation (EC) No ./2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), establishing a European Chemicals Agency, amending Directive 1999/45/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 793/93 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1488/94 as well as Council Directive 76/769/EEC and Commission Directives 91/155/EEC, 93/67/EEC, 93/105/EC and 2000/21/EC, Council of the Erupoean Commission, p. 39.

st07/st07524.en06.pdf (viewed 31 July 2006) (Back)

27. Ibid, p. 3 (Back)

28. Ibid, pp. 3-4 (Back)

29. Ibid, p. 4 (Back)

30. Europa (2006) REACH.

reach_intro.htm (viewed 31 July 2006) (Back)