In Europe, the disposal of electrical and electronic equipment has been growing at an alarming rate, with a large majority of these products ending up in landfills.
There is also a growing concern over the disposal of electronic products that contain components comprised of hazardous materials. Such concern has prompted the European Union to implement new procedures for the waste management and recycling phases of such equipment, with the goal to reduce electrical equipment waste effecting society and the environment.
The European union has issued two directives addressing these issues:
Directive 2002/96/EC of January 27, 2003: Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) [ PDF 287 kB ]
Directive 2002/95/EC of January 27, 2003: Restriction Of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS) [ PDF 115 kB ]
The WEEE Directive was developed to first prevent electrical and electronic equipment waste, and secondly, to encourage the reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery of such wastes in order to reduce overall disposal. The directive also seeks to improve the environmental performance of all entities involved in the life cycle of electrical and electronic equipment (e.g. manufacturers, distributors and consumers).
The directive, which covers products 0 - 1,000V AC and 0 - 1,500V DC, places the responsibility of compliance largely on the manufacturer. Compliance to the directive must be met by December 31, 2006.
To illustrate the need for such a directive, it is estimated that in 2005, German households alone will return 1.1 Million tons of electronic and electrical waste, with approximately 800,000 tons comprised of large household appliances.
The RoHS Directive states that industry has to design electrical and electronic equipment which can be recycled without great effort, and which is not contaminated by hazardous substances such as: mercury, cadmium, lead, chromium VI, PBB and PBDE. Compliance to the directive must be met by July 1, 2006.
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