Where are WEEE now? Lessons from WEEE: Will EPR work for the US?

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1 Where are WEEE now? Lessons from WEEE: Will EPR work for the US? Jaco Huisman Design for Sustainability Research Group, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands Federico Magalini Dept of Economics Management & Industrial Engineering Politecnico di Milano Milan, Italy Abstract Currently, the transposition and implementation of the WEEE Directive by EU Member States is becoming a complete chaos for all parties involved. A radical change is needed to avoid that the original intent of the Directive is being lost. Experts of TU Delft are researching how to align the organization of setting up take-back systems for discarded electronics with outcomes of environmental and economic assessments as well as from organizational analysis. The results could point a way out from the current situation and could be of help for discussions in the US with regard to development of take-back and recycling systems in the various states. Keywords-WEEE, EPR, eco-efficiency, responsibilities, electronic waste I. INTRODUCTION In a considerable number of EU member states there are substantial delays in the implementation of the EU WEEE Directive [1]. Moreover, large differences in the implementation in all member states and sometimes even regions cause substantial problems mainly for producers for which assuring legal compliance in 27 completely different member states with over a 100 different compliance schemes is hard to realize, let alone having effective and efficient takeback systems being fully operational. This is mainly due to the fact that the different stakeholders involved could not agree on their respective role and the financial consequences in the past. Examples are [7]: Retail and municipalities demanding disproportional compensation for usage of collection space and their services. Individual or collective Compliance Schemes having substantial overhead costs or using the Visible Fee for building up funds for after the Visible Fee period, which is not in line with the Directive s legal text. Governments asking high penalties on certain compliance details, or not being able to embed the new Directive into existing laws (on time). Different environmental standards for recyclers per member state causing competition distortion. Differences between producers, f.i. due to different financial accounting standards between EU, Asian and US producers for long term accruals, or between recyclers due to different environmental standards per member state. Producer Associations with different types of producers and business models, lobbying against each other and trying to affect all WEEE categories whereas the priorities per category do vary significantly (lamps aren t desktop PC s, refrigerators aren t cellular phones). Recyclers not complying with all strict environmental rules or even causing illegal waste exports (through brokers) to non-oecd countries thus lowering the costs of recycling and treatment In the justification of the Directive itself the following is written: The objective of improving the management of WEEE cannot be achieved effectively by Member States acting individually. In particular, different national applications of the producer responsibility principle may lead to substantial disparities in the financial burden on economic operators. Having different national policies on the management of WEEE hampers the effectiveness of recycling policies. For that reason the essential criteria should be laid down at Community level. Why is this remark completely opposite of the current implementation status in Europe? Why is there so much legislative uncertainty and different interpretations in each country, poorly developed connections with existing laws, trench warfare between stakeholders in every individual member state, lobbying battlefields in Brussels? For sure one of the reasons for this chaos is the responsibility of the EU member states as the WEEE Directive is a so-called Article 175 Directive under which individual member states must transpose the rules into national law but with the freedom to go beyond the minimum requirements. Another option would have been to apply the Article 95 Regulation by which the legal requirements would have been the same throughout Europe. However, looking back to the time of writing of the Directive, it seemed to make sense to allow different levels by the member states as back then already large differences existed. In some countries already in 1998 first national legislation was enacted whereas others

2 TABLE I. CHANGE IN THINKING ABOUT ELECTRONICS RECYCLING OVER TIME Item 1996 status/ focus 2006 status/ focus Starting point Solve waste issue Optimize waste management Principle Producer as main responsible party should get things started Chain optimization is a matter of responsibility of stakeholders Scope Origin based product categories Destination based waste treatment categories Environmental issue Waste prevention and toxicity control Toxicity, resource efficiency, energy preservation, health and safety Economic issue Design for Recycling will reduce recycling costs Maximize environmental performance as cost efficient as possible Technology Manual disassembly is the way to remove hazardous substances and make purer fractions Shredding and separation has become more effective, toxic control depends much more on destinations of materials where not even thinking about taking legal measures in the next decade. A situation which looks rather similar to the current one in US when one replaces 27 EU members by 50 US states. Still, when one looks back on the developments in Europe, one could wonder whether other, at least more harmonized solutions would have been more effective. It s crucial, especially in the US, to avoid state differences that could hamper effectiveness of systems and generate great asymmetries in the market like [7]: The need to pay financial guarantees for different kind of flows (B2B/B2C) or choosing individual versus collective approach; The definitions of B2B/B2C streams referring to put on market or the end-of-life stream; The financing mechanisms or Cost Models allowed or used (f.i. use/prohibition of Visible Fee or ARF in neighbor states). The aim of this article is to deliver potential solutions by analyzing what happened over time in Europe in terms of general thinking about escrap, the current status and the emerging complexity from an environmental, organizational and legal point of view, the way the Extended Producer Principle (EPR) principle and the desired Design for Recycling (DfR) feedback loop are practiced (or not),, about the various responsibilities of stakeholders involved and finally how to develop proper incentives to improve take-back and recycling of electronic waste without making very prescriptive legislation knowing the role of research and technology developments. II. TIMES HAVE CHANGED Large parts of the EU WEEE Directive are written in a time (around 96) where the thinking was dominated by looking at ways to: do good for the environment with the EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) principle as a starter [5]. At the time, one was primarily focusing on control over toxic substances by means of smart Design for Recycling (DfR) and manual disassembly of hazardous components in the recycling phase itself. However, 10 years later, both academic research and practical treatment experiences show that electronic waste policies should serve multiple and broader environmental goals. Significant developments in shredding and separation technologies lead to the realization that dismantling as such does not bring the desired toxic control as it depends much more on the destinations of disassembled components and/or shredder fractions, plus there are relatively high costs involved. In addition, also the recovery of valuable materials (prevention of new material extraction also decreases emissions) and energy preservation became much more important. At last, a more practical categorization of material streams with similar content in (precious) metal-, glass and plastic dominated products occurred naturally, instead of a division by origin. Besides the change in environmental priorities also the originally envisaged role of DfR turned out to be a different one. From an economic perspective it is realized that for some categories a structural deficit (negative recycling costs) occurs that simply cannot just be phased out by smart design. III. ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AND NEW PRIOIRITIES Additionally, organizing take-back and recycling appeared to be much more complex than just giving one stakeholder all responsibility. Moreover, in the process of setting-up and implementing the WEEE Directive, so far little notice has been given to the question whether the current developments are indeed serving the environmental goals. For this reason a dedicated analysis framework [2,3,4] has been build-up in order to quantify the environmental and economic impacts of the WEEE Directive with focus on materials (both resource value and toxicity or other environmental burdening), on products and product categories (what are the most relevant ones) and processing options (which technology is preferable?). From applying the frame-work on many different products and categories, a prioritization is derived which clearly demonstrates where design, policy, technology and system organization should focus on [7,8,9,10].

3 A. Weight versus environmental weight In the process of setting-up and implementing the WEEE Directive, so far little notice has been given to the question whether the current developments are indeed serving the environmental goals. This notion has led to the development of the QWERTY concept for calculating product recyclability on a real environmental basis instead of on a weight basis only. All important elements required for environmental validation and integral costs connected to this are discussed in [1,2]. An example of evaluating a product with environmental weight instead of traditional weight based thinking is given in Figure 1 for a precious metal dominated cellular phone. The graph shows that the from a weight based perspective, maybe recycling of the plastics is the first priority, whereas the environmental equivalent shows that avoiding loss of precious metal value is the most important aspect to focus on [8]. Other Plastics 'Weight' Zinc Copper Glass 'Environmental weight' Palladium Copper B. Eco-efficiency As a second step of the eco-efficiency approach developed, calculations of environmental gain over costs ratios are made. This is applied for all those cases where an environmental improvement is realized and financial investments are needed to obtain this, or in reverse. By this it can be determined how much absolute environmental improvement (mpts = millipoints) is realized per amount of money invested (in ; 1,00 = $ 1,20 at ) Obviously, this direction appears the most. In the next graph, all main options investigated in the QWERTY research are presented. The graph shows which options have the highest environmental effect per one or $ invested. Gold Figure 1. Weight versus environmental weight, cellular phone Increase collection metal dominated products Separate coll. precious metal dom. prod. (low precious metal content) Increase glass recycling 15% to 70% Increase collection rates glass dominated products Dedicated treatment metal dominated products (low plastic content) Plastic recycling medium sized housings (1-2,5 kg) Prevention residue fractions to cement kiln (high plastic content) Pick-up on demand collection at households Plastic recycling small sized housings (0-1kg) Disassembly PWBs and treatment with copper fraction* Environmental gain (mpts/ invested) Figure 2. Eco-efficiency of various recycling scenarios The above figure as well as [1,8,9] show that the most ecoefficient improvement are related to saving more products from the waste bin and too maximize CRT glass recycling back to CRT glass (as long as possible) and for instance also energy recovery of mixed plastic fractions compared to landfilling. In general one can conclude that optimizing take-back and recycling is mainly a principle of increasing collection, optimizing recycling for specific fractions and avoiding leakage streams of material fractions and appliances to avoid illegal exports to places where proper treatment cannot be reassured. These findings do place the original EPR principle in a different light when it regards to a design feedback loop to producers in order to improve product end-of-life performance. From this two questions remain: Firstly: What about Design for Recycling, isn t that important anymore? Secondly: knowing this, how should responsibilities be addressed otherwise? IV. WHAT ABOUT DESIGN FOR RECYCLING? The basic principle for adoption of EPR over the EOL chain was rewarding in DfR. Unfortunately two boundary conditions reduce the room for effectively applying DfR, e.g. the environmental life-cycle principle as well as functionality and other requirements: Proper Eco-Design aims a limiting the environmental impacts over the total life-cycle and keeps the functionality demand intact. For instance LCD monitors use less energy in the use phase compared to CRT screens, which prevails from an environmental point of view over the risks in recycling of the mercury containing backlights (let alone the functionality demand of having flat panels like in laptops). In [6] it is demonstrated in more detail that the environmental room for improving the EOL phase of most mainstream products is very limited. This is also due to the fact that when improving end-of-life performance, the following three effects must be addressed at the same time: 1. The environmental value connected to the materials within the product in the manufacturing stage should be decreased. This is an important principle, while it should be prevented that recycling percentages, either on a weight basis, or on environmentally weighted QWERTY basis are increased by adding more environmental load into products at the beginning of their life cycle. Such an activity would lead to overall increases of overall environmental impacts over the life cycle. In simple words: adding more metals or energy intensive materials will maybe increase the potential amounts to be recovered, however at the cost of environmental burdening during manufacturing. See the first arrow in Figure The second arrow represents the second important principle for redesign. When the product under consideration is not recycled at all and for instance ending up in a landfill, the environmental impacts must not increase as well. Therefore, the environmental value connected to the worst case scenario should be

4 decreased as well. This can be achieved by for instance avoiding potentially toxic materials. 3. The third arrow of Figure 3 shows that a redesign activity should lead to minimizing the gap between maximum environmental value to be recovered (the manufacturing value of the first bar) and the actual performance of product in the recycling scenario under consideration (third bar). In other words, the environmental value of the materials present in the product must be recovered as much as possible Environmental burden (mpt) 0 Best Case Worst Case Recycling Environmental gain (mpt) 1 2 Figure 3. Main Design Principles (DVD player) Aluminium Copper The result of any successful redesign activity should comply with all three principles at the same time and not only to one or two of them, in order to prevent higher environmental impacts of the products concerned. On top of that many other restrictions exist like functionality and looks, cost for changing production higher than savings in recycling, reliability and safety (flameretardants!) and other legal requirements, development time and supply chain aspects. This doesn t mean that there is room for improvement on the design end. For example, for LCD panels momentarily no good recycling solutions exist, both dismantling (too risky from a Health and Safety point of view) and shredding and separation (uncontrolled Hg emissions) are not an option. What could be done with design is to improve the remove-ability of the backlights and decrease of the disassembly times for those products that are likely to be dismantled. Despite the fact that in practice the need for DfR is limited, in specific cases (Hg backlighting, batteries, products with an intrinsic need for dismantling) the disassembly and removal characteristics of truly hazardous components could be improved. With this observation, which is confirmed by recyclers, DfR basically turns into DtARA : Design to Avoid Recycling Accidents. V. HOW TO ADDRESS RESPONSIBILITIES OTHERWISE? As concluded before, the most eco-efficient ways to improve take-back system performance is by maximizing collection, to improve the recycling processing and to monitor and enforce the destination of material fractions and products. How does that relate to re-arranging responsibilities and the financing part of this specifically? 3 Ferro Plastics Ag Br Pb Sb Epoxy Glass Other Au Ni Pd Sn PVC As can be read in [7] (in the same proceedings as this article) the financing of WEEE has been proven to be a challenging field and the most crucial issue and not only for producers. Different stakeholders are involved in the EOL chain. Financial responsibility alone has not lead to optimization of take-back and recycling systems from an overall societal point of view, as leverages are needed in different phases of the chain. Therefore, when the development of new legal frameworks in various US states or maybe even on a federal level continues, the following responsibilities should be addressed (in a non-prescriptive way): Producers should remain primarily responsible for financing as in this way one of the involved stakeholders is primarily responsible and taking the lead in organizing and developing compliance schemes. In addition, producers should increase their DtARA efforts and reduce disassembly time for products that need to be dismantled and toxic or harmful components that need to be removed prior to any further treatment (like Hg backlights, asbestos, radioactive components, CFC s, etc..) In the future, with the models developed in [1] and [3], it is in theory possible to address individual producer designs in correlation to the environmental and economic performance while maintaining the organizational and cost-efficiency plus economies of scale of collective systems. End users/ consumers should hand in old products and avoid discarding of (small) appliances in the waste bin. Public education and campaigns seemed to be successful in a number of EU member states, including the Netherlands. (In some EU member states, specific school projects have been very successful in educating children on environmental concerns by small scale collection trials with high collection result per household). Retailers should provide well accessible collection points as much as possible. In order to minimize thresholds for consumer to hand in old products, a high density and accessibility of collection points is needed. This also includes the trade-in mechanism, not only on an old for new basis when buying new appliances but any old for any new or any old when selling new is recommended. In Norway and Switzerland (collecting more than 10 kg per inhabitant in 2005) have an any old hand in mechanism where the end user could return old appliances to retailers without buying new equipment. Also Denmark has implemented a similar mechanism in transposing WEEE Directive, thus going behind old for new. In addition, mandatory trade in at certified compliance schemes could limit selling products to brokers with a high chance of causing illegal exports. Evidence for this is found in the Netherlands where inspection authorities found large quantities of TV s leaving the country illegally due to not handing in products at certified compliance schemes.

5 Municipalities: should enable cheap collection and well accessible collection points as well (when such collection points or container parks are present of course). Also, they should avoid excessive costs for collecting WEEE as happens in some EU member states due to the fact that the responsibility of these municipalities is not addressed at all and the compliance schemes have little options. They should also avoid selling appliances to scrap brokers with the risk of implicitly promoting illegal exports. Recyclers should invest in the most eco-efficient treatment technologies and trying to promote high level reapplications of material fractions. Further research might be needed here in order to optimize the cost efficiency and environmental performance of different treatment options. Compliance Schemes should try to maximize collection amount, in order to improve effectiveness of the system and achieve economy of scale. A reward mechanism could be used in order to ensure maximum collection of the entire stream generated by end users. Schemes could also be made responsible for the P.R towards consumers. In addition, mechanisms should be in place that reduces overhead and additional costs for compliance schemes as well as ways that promote good quality treatment which sometimes costs more than fulfilling minimum requirements. In addition, the control and enforcement of recycling operations and products and materials streams should be addressed. Finally, governments and authorities should provide clear legislative frameworks, in particular addressing key responsibilities to stakeholders and the most crucial definitions. Secondly, one should increase monitoring and enforcement. The logic behind the above is to address responsibilities in relation to solutions within reach of the various stakeholders. With discussion this different arrangement of responsibilities compared to the original EPR principle, this still doesn t answer completely which incentives should be used in legislation and which non-legislative incentives could be successful: VI. OTHER INCENTIVES FOR TAKE-BACK AND RECYCLING The main lessons from the EU WEEE implementation can contribute to rethinking about incentives (legal and voluntary ones) that can improve take-back and recycling of electronics in the US. The main lessons and connected incentives can be arranged to organization and definition issues as well as to ways to improve collection, treatment and destinations of materials: Organizational incentives are: The definition of scope is relevant for the financing, but has proven to be very troublesome in the EU. Specifically the used product lists which were already outdated on the time of writing and the split between B2B and B2C were difficult. One way of proceeding here might be a diversion from a product oriented scope to a waste oriented scope which focuses on criteria like the actual appearance of products in the waste stream, or based on product characteristics. For the split between B2B and B2C can be avoided completely or being arranged differently per product category like treating for example all professional equipment and lamps as B2B, CE and IT products as B2C. Separation of the basic legal framework from standards would also be helpful in order to adjust to system and technology dynamics over time. Central registering of producers and appliances put on market would definitely reduce administrative burdens for producers. Monitoring of treatment performance by compliance schemes and authorities should preferably be done with the same reporting tools and standards. The choice of a financing model should be done in a flexible way and not with a one size fits all approach. This means that different categories need different solutions: Some categories can be financed just by the intrinsic value of collected appliances (computers, washing machines) certain other will require financing anyway due to the net negative end-of-life value (refrigerators, lamps, plastic dominated products) Collection incentives: Create an incentive to collect everything potentially generated: do not define fixed target to achieve but only monitor performances (everything should be collected and treated) or use targets dynamically, focused on the most relevant products and materials. Develop the incentive in such a way that it promotes higher amounts (opposite to most EU systems where producers pay more when collected more). Investigate options for a return premium for consumers Define a minimum number of collection points and specifically address the trade in mechanism at retail collection points with preferably hand in of any old products when selling new equipment. Also remuneration by the compliance scheme for storage costs can be used. Reduce leakage streams by control of collected WEEE at municipalities and retailer collection points and mandatory hand in by retail and municipalities at certified compliance schemes. More enforcement of waste shipments (and maybe following the Basel Convention rules on a voluntary basis). Treatment and material destination incentives: The development of environmental and other treatment standards can be done by industry itself. In the EU

6 there is quite some focus on the future definition of Best-Available-Technologies (BAT) for WEEE treatment. This way, control over treatment will be less part of a static piece of legislation and left over to a dynamic field itself. Also other options to address treatment standards as part of recycler certification and/ or licensing are preferable. The issue of (il?)legal exports should get attention. Good collection efforts as well as treatment efforts can be totally made useless when the resulting product or material streams are exported to poor quality treatment facilities in industrializing countries. Do not use recycling targets, or only for the most relevant materials, e.g. plastics and CRT glass and only in such a way that the highest environmental levels of re-application are supported like CRT glass back to CRT glass. VII. CONCLUSIONS By far the most important lesson from Europe is to harmonize the approach for the legal framework(s) throughout the US as much as possible. Avoiding state-by-by state solutions will help to create a level playing field for both recyclers and producers. When done the right way, it will speed up the overall process of developing take-back and recycling under equal and proper standards and thus will result in significant environmental results as well as improved cost efficiencies over time. From the above analysis on the EU WEEE developments, the discussion on how EPR worked or not and the issue of responsibilities, made clear that the key decision is to choose between developing product oriented legislation or waste oriented legislation. How the first one turned out can be observed in the EU. The second one allows focusing on the most important recycling issue: to get control over the inputs and outputs of recycling systems and thus over the escrap issue in total. This also allows to balance environmental and design aspects in other product oriented legislation (like the EuP Directive) that addresses other (much more important) lifecycle stages at the same time (like the energy consumption during the use phase). VIII. REFERENCES [1] Commission of the European Communities, Directive 2002/96/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), Official Journal of the European Union, Brussels, February 13, [2] J. Huisman, The QWERTY/EE concept, Quantifying recyclability and eco-efficiency for end-of-life treatment of consumer electronic products, Ph.D. thesis, ISBN , Delft University of Technology, May 2003, Delft, The Netherlands. [3] F. Magalini, J. Huisman, Compliance Key Factors of the EU WEEE Directive, How far is one from a full implementation. Proceedings of the 2006 International Symposium on Electronics and the Environment, San Francisco, May [4] J. Huisman, A. Stevels, T. Marinelli, F. Magalini, Where did WEEE go wrong in Europe? Practical and Academic lessons for US. Proceedings of the 2006 International Symposium on Electronics and the Environment, San Francisco, May [5] C. van Rossem, N. Tojo, T. Lindhqvist, Extend Producer Responsibility. An examination of its impact and innovation and greening products, Report commissioned by Greenpeace International, Friends of the Earth and the European Environmental Bureau. [6] J. Huisman, A.L.N. Stevels, Balancing Design Strategies and End-of- Life Processing, Proceedings of the 2003 Ecodesign Conference, Tokyo, December 2003 [7] F. Magalini, J. Huisman, Management of WEEE and Cost Models across the EU, Could the EPR principle lead US to a better Environmental Policy? Proceedings of the 2007 International Symposium on Electronics and the Environment, Orlando, FL, USA, May 2007 [8] J. Huisman, A.L.N. Stevels, I. Stobbe, Eco-efficiency considerations on the end-of-life of consumer electronic products, accepted for the IEEE Transactions on Electronics Packaging Manufacturing, Vol.27, No.1, pp.9-25, ISSN X, January [9] J. Huisman, A.L.N. Stevels, Eco-efficiency of take-back and recycling, a comprehensive approach, IEEE Transactions on Electronics Packaging Manufacturing, Volume 29, Issue 2, April 2006 Page(s): [10] J. Huisman, QWERTY and Eco-Efficiency analysis on cellular phone treatment in Sweden. The eco-efficiency of the direct smelter route versus mandatory disassembly of Printed Circuit Boards, written for El- Kretsen, Stockholm, Sweden, April 2004.

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