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Disposing of Electrical Equipment Waste in Sweden

Although the European Commission is developing its own proposal for a European Directive on Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), Sweden recognizes a need for more immediate action. Other European countries, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland, have already enacted regulations in this field. In April of 2000, the Swedish Parliament adopted the Ordinance on Producer Responsibility for WEEE. It is expected to come into effect on July 1, 2001. Under this ordinance, when customers buy a new product, they can return an old product of the same type at no cost to them. As one of the main European manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment, this is particularly important to Sweden and Swedish companies.

The Producer, defined as a professional manufacturer, importer or dealer of electrical and electronic equipment, has the responsibility to:

1. take back a piece of old equipment when the customer buys a new, at no cost to the consumer
2. inform households and others about this take back obligation
3. present a take back plan to the municipalities and participate in discussions about the take back plan, if the municipalities so wish
4. handle WEEE in an environmentally sound manner
5. provide a list of contents of the products when requested by the establishments carrying out pre-treatment operations
6. give the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), the data needed to monitor the
compliance of the ordinance.

The above list of requirements apply to the following categories of electrical and electronic equipment:

1. Household appliances*, tools and garden equipment
2. IT and office equipment
3. Telecommunication equipment
4. Television, audio and video equipment
5. Cameras and photo equipment
6. Clocks and watches
7. Games and toys
8. Lighting equipment
9. Medical equipment
10. Laboratory equipment

Section 25 of the Ordinance on Waste Collection and Disposal states WEEE must be treated at a certified establishment prior to landfilling, shredding or incineration. This provision is also projected to be in effect on July 1, 2001. The establishment carrying out treatment operations must have a certified quality management system or environmental management system according to the ISO 9000 or ISO 14000 series. Additional regulations, planned to come into effect on the same date as above, include:

1. recording the input and output volumes of waste
2. separate handling of components containing hazardous waste
3. separate handling of CRTs (cathode ray tubes), LCDs, plastics containing the brominated flame retardants PBB or PBDE, and
4. pollution prevention at the treatment site.

Impact on U.S. companies

These new regulations will impose higher costs for all manufacturers, both for those based in Europe as well as those based in non-EU countries. The role of agents, sales representatives, and distributors of products from non-EU based companies, has not yet been disclosed. However, this proposal will create new market opportunities for U.S. companies working on waste treatment, recovery and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment. Furthermore, the WEEE may stimulate a market for companies that manage the waste take-back programs.

Full text of the EU legislative proposal http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/docum/0037_en.pdf

More information regarding ordinances in other European countries can be found at:
www.itri.co.uk/WEEE2.htm, www.eorm.rtis.com/sample2.htm, www.nema.org/papers/waste.html

Information provided by Lars-Erik Lilljelund, Director-General Swedish EPA and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

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