In the last quarter of a century, production and use of electric appliances and electronic devices has increased immensely. The advancements of computer technology, along with mass production and use of household appliances and domestic electronics has created a new challenge for the waste management industry – proper disposal of electric and electronic waste. About twenty or so years ago, electric and electronic waste was still relatively manageable in terms of size / volume as households and organisations tended to use certain appliances and pieces of equipment such as fridges, TVs, computers and microwaves etc. for longer periods of time. Many of these pieces of equipment were repaired rather than replaced when broken as they costed more to purchase than they do today. Soon after though, mass production grew even larger and appliances and electronic devices became cheaper and more common. Manufacturers were quick to design and engineer newer, more efficient examples of consumer electronics and household appliances, which made current models obsolete. Replacing old with new appliances and electronics became a permanent trend for households and organisations. Problem now was, what to do with all the redundant appliances and electronics discarded by people.
In the early days of electronic and appliance waste production, such waste was simply tossed out in the general stream of commercial or residential rubbish, along with other waste. This however was a bad option and would prove unsustainable and even dangerous as electronic devices and appliances are usually manufactured using certain hazardous materials which inevitably create toxic waste and contaminate the environment during when degrading out in the open. As more and more electronic and electrical waste was accumulated, especially in developed societies, it became more and more problematic to deal with these hazardous waste streams. There were non-centralised efforts on behalf of different countries and organisations to come up with various schemes and systems for managing electronic and electrical waste but these were not as efficient as intended since there was no universal policy or set of regulations (system) for dealing with this particular type of waste.
Another thing which became apparent was that electronic and electric waste was a good source of valuable materials which could be recycled and reused for manufacturing of other similar products. For instance, the various metals and alloys used for making domestic appliances can be reprocessed into new materials entering the production stream of manufacturers. Another example – computers and various other electronic devices actually contain precious metals like gold, platinum and silver. Although in small amounts, it is well worth it to extract and recycle these precious metals and re-enter them in the production cycle of new appliances and devices.
Since a structured and well organised system was needed for management of electric and electronic waste, the European Community came together to create and implement the so called WEEE Directive. The abbreviation stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive , it was drafted and implemented on a limited scale for the first time in February, two thousand three. Basically, the WEEE Directive outlined and regulated the means of managing electronic and electrical waste on local, regional, national and European level. The Directive covers collection, recycling of redundant products, as well as extraction of certain types and amounts of salvageable materials from electronic and electrical waste stream. The WEEE Directive recognises electrical and electronic waste as hazardous therefore it also imposes certain restrictions on what materials manufacturers of such products can and cannot use for production of future devices and appliances. WEEE Directive generally divides electronic and electrical waste in two categories historic and non-historic. Historic being all appliances and devices built before two thousand five, while non-historic being all such products manufactured after two thousand five.
Yielding results from the WEEE Directive has turned out to be easier said than done. Although most European member states have ratified and adopted the directive, it has failed to reach some of its goals since its implementation in two thousand three. This has called for the several revisions and updates of the WEEE Directive, in 2006, 2009 and once more in 2011/2012. The overall aim of the directive is to be able to recycle a minimum of eighty five percent of all electrical and electronic equipment by the end of two thousand sixteen – an uncertain objective at this stage. The WEEE Directive covers not only consumers and municipal (as well as private) waste management service providers but also electronics and electrics manufacturers and distributors which are now imposed with the responsibility to meet certain collection, buy-back and disposal criteria for products they sell to end users. If your household or office requires a cost efficient junk removal solution in Tower Hamlets, which covers legal collection, removal and disposal of WEEE, there are several local service providers who can assist.