The return of electronic waste should become easier in Germany in the future. On 15 April, the German Bundestag passed an amendment to the Electrical and Electronics Act, which obliges supermarkets, discounters and online retailers to take back electrical appliances. The change, which is expected to come into force next year, is welcome. However, it is not a big litter.
Markets with a sales area of more than 800 square meters will have to take back electrical appliances in the future, if they offer them themselves at least occasionally. If the devices have an edge length of more than 25 centimeters, the customer must buy a new device at the same time.
Measures against the E-waste mountain
Germany wants to significantly increase the far too low e-recycling rate of 43 percent. The EU prescribes 65 percent – and that, too, is little. More and more electrical waste is produced worldwide, with the largest amount per capita occurring in Europe. To a large extent, there is no trace of e-waste that has not been disposed of or recycled in a comprehensible manner.
The amendment was adopted with the votes of the CDU/CSU and the SPD. The opposition voted against it. This justifies a closer look-namely, at what is not in the law:
- The German Federal Council had previously proposed to ban** permanently installed batteries… in products such as laptops and mobile phones. The State Chamber wanted a law that would allow consumers to change the battery themselves. The EU Commission and the Federal Environment Ministry were also in favour.
This is probably due to the power of the manufacturers. Samsung, for example, warned loudly “heise” at a hearing that special devices would then have to be developed for the German market, which could then “turn out to be a bit clunkier”. The fact that there are already mobile phones with replaceable batteries fell under the table.
The Greens and the Left had requested to introduce an electronic deposit … for smartphones and tablets in order to create an incentive to dispose of discarded devices correctly. Currently, this is the case not even in half of the old equipment. The motion failed.
A right to repair will not exist in Germany for the time being.
An assessment of the… longevity of electrical appliances or specifications for a… recycling-friendly design, in which individual parts can be better separated from each other, also not.
So this is not a bold step into the circular economy. Other countries are brave, not least in France, for example, with the introduction of the “fix-it” durability index, one of the proposals of the French climate-citizens Council, which was recently implemented.
German discounters must take back small devices
After all, Aldi, Lidl, Rewe and Co.are expected to take back the electric toothbrush and the broken hair dryer from next year, including toner cartridges and printer cartridges. At least in larger branches, and if the hair dryer is not longer than 25 centimeters. This also applies to online retail, which has actually been offering recycling opportunities for years.
For the washing machine, the route then still leads to the recycling yard, if a new one is not bought at the same time. Containers in which e-waste is collected are to be filled more carefully in the future. So far, a lot of things end up in the trough with momentum and break down, which always causes fires or the leakage of toxic ingredients.
Swiss system has better response rate
The uncomplicated Swiss system, which finances the return of electrical waste at the retailer via the early recycling contribution, is not only ecologically more successful. With a return rate of 95 percent, much less valuable raw materials are lost. However, the consumption of electronic products in Switzerland is very high.
Electrical appliances purchased in Germany can also be returned in Switzerland in the future. In this case, the consumer does not pay a recycling fee, but that is not too bad. “This is not a huge burden for the Swiss recycling system,” says Chris Ruegg from Swiss Recycling. Switzerland could cope with a few foreign electrical appliances from private companies. It is more important that they are disposed of correctly. The far greater problem is commercial imports. For example, if many electrical appliances were imported from abroad for large construction projects, which would then be produced as electronic waste in ten or fifteen years.