At the end of June a two-day conference took place to counter the illegal trade with E-Waste with the name CWIT (WEEE Countering Illegal Trade). In the offices of Interpol in Lyon EU officials, representatives of take-back systems, producers of electrical appliances, E-Waste recyclers, police, border control authorities and NGOs met in order to strengthen the fight against the smuggling of electronic waste and to take action against the improper disposal of waste. The Müller-Guttenbrunn Group has cooperated in parts of this initiative as liaison between the Austrian working group “Stop illegal waste exports” and the CWIT working group.
In 2012, only 3.3 million tons of electronic waste were collected, recycled and reported in line with the EU requirements of the total volume of around 9.5 million metric tons. The investigations of the United Nations University also showed that in addition some 2.2 million metric tons of WEEE’s were recycled despite the fact that these were not properly reported. An estimated quantity of 700 thousand metric tons is mixed with household waste, which largely complicates the recovery.
Approximately 10% of the total quantity of electrical and electronic equipment in Europe is exported illegally and eventually these devices will end up in West Africa or in Far East countries such as China on open dumps where the equipment causes major environmental problems instead of allowing the recovery of metals, precious metals and plastics.
The CWIT study has identified that in Austria some 42% of the EAG’s were properly collected, recycled and reported and that on top of this an additional 26% of the equipment was recycled without being reported officially. This puts Austria in the upper part of the statistics in Europe. About 5% of the E-Waste ends up in the waste bin and approximately 10% is exported for reuse. The whereabouts of about 16% of the volume of WEEE is therefore unknown and it is this gap that is being worked on.
In Austria, the issue is actively being addressed by a multidisciplinary working group “Stop illegal waste exports” made up of representatives of municipalities, waste management associations, take-back schemes and recycling companies such as Müller-Guttenbrunn. Many activities are slowly but surely bearing fruit and progress is being made in many areas. One of recent topics has been the launch of a promotion campaign to encourage consumers to dispose of electrical and electronic equipment correctly and do not deliver it to illegal collectors.
The final results of the CWIT study will be published at the end of the summer and once this is completed, we will include a summary of the study on this Website.