Only 35% of WEEE is recycled in Europe, the rest is exported or stored
An Interpol report reveals that only 35%, about 3,5 million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) ended up in official collection and recycling systems, the remaining 65%, about 6,2 million tonnes , being either exported or recycled improperly, or landfilled. This is one of the conclusions of the "Countering WEEE, Illegal trade" Project, a study conducted by INTERPOL in collaboration with Cross Border Research Association, Compliance & Risks Ltd, United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, United Nations University, WEEE Forum and Zanasi & Partners , a project co-financed by the European Commission.
The president of the ECOTIC Association, member of the WEEE Forum, Valentin Negoiță was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding this report.
ecological: What can you tell us about Interpol's report on the illegal trade in electrical and electronic waste?
Valentin Negoiţă, president of the ECOTIC Association: It is a report made by Interpol to the United Nations, WEEE Forum and other consulting organizations.
This report is the result of a project which was co-financed by the European Commission, and which took place over a period of two years in which an attempt was made to identify parallel WEEE flows because there was obvious certainty that in one place or another on the other hand, many such wastes left from certain ports, on water, to certain countries: China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where their dismantling is very cheap and, last but not least, because those people need material resources that to recycle and sell them.
It is a reality, we are talking about a very strong trade, I know that it seems shocking that out of the total amount of WEEE, only 35% are collected and treated, yes what is said in that report is true. In fact, there have been some preliminary studies that have shown the same thing. Now all European countries have been taken into account and I want to specify that this final report, which has only about 50 pages or more, was coordinated by Ioana Botezatu who heads the Biodiversity Directorate within the Sub-Directorate for Environmental Security of Interpol. The meeting with the over 200 representatives from Europe took place there, including Cosmin Teodoru from the Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests. Thus, now things are very serious and certified.
ecological: What measures do you think will be taken to stop this traffic?
Valentin Negoiţă, president of the ECOTIC Association: First of all, transparency is very important, reports must be introduced to both producers and producer organizations.
There are many recommendations, but following this report we want to implement an operational information management system at European level, the formation of an environmental security group for each country, the ban on cash transactions in the European Union for trade in metals, WEEE treatment to be mandatory according to certified standards, such as WEEELABEX, but there are others, the implementation of the directive and the harmonization of definitions so that everything is clear, possibly with some clarifications in the annexes where some things, some articles can be passed. This report was attended by 10 people, three of whom were Romanian analysts. It is also specified in this report on national inspections and investigations focused on different categories.
ecological: Who do you think should do these inspections and investigations?
Valentin Negoiţă, president of the ECOTIC Association: These should be done by the environmental authorities. I don't want to say who, because everyone knows. It is normal for the authority to make checks. A final recommendation is to raise public awareness to facilitate access to WEEE. The idea is that if the population is more aware, they will know that they have to hand over the WEEE where they need it, to collection centers, and have the certainty that they are taken over, collected properly at Remat, GreenWeee and others.
If I had to give a general explanation, I would say that the report validates some opinions and studies carried out in recent years at national level and shows at the same time that 30% of EU countries have so far implemented strict rules for implementing the 2012 directive.
ecological: When do you think that the ordinance transposing into European legislation the European directive on electrical and electronic waste will be debated in the Parliament?
Valentin Negoiţă, president of the ECOTIC Association: Yes, that emergency ordinance is still in the Romanian Parliament and in my opinion it must be passed urgently. I can tell you that we had a meeting with the Minister of the Environment, a meeting in which we conveyed our concern to him on two issues. Firstly, with regard to this delayed ordinance, and secondly, we wanted to know what happens to the so-called regulation or penalty for producers who do not achieve the desired percentage or recycling target. Another problem I have always pointed out is the lack of enforcement. As can be seen from the European Union's recommendations, the authorities need to tighten enforcement. If this enforcement does not work as in the Nordic countries… The Minister has promised us all the support that the ministry can give us.
ecological: You participated in the conference in which the report of the project regarding the traffic of electrical waste was made public. Who else participated from Romania and what were the opinions of those present?
Valentin Negoiţă, president of the ECOTIC Association: Representatives from Romania were present at this meeting, in addition to the three analysts, two specialists from Rematholding were present, and from the Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests, the director of the Waste Department, Cosmin Teodoru and councilor Ionuț Mușetoiu.
Yes, Romania had representatives there, just to take the pulse and move on. It was a very focused conference, representatives of local authorities from some countries also came, representatives of some port administrations from Antwerp and Hamburg who have problems, although they check weekly, as they said, about 16 ships.
However, it is very important to know that this report identifies not only the ecological stake, but also the economic and social stake. Recyclers in Europe need to work and capitalize on raw materials for Europeans, and this means jobs for European citizens and raw materials that are no longer taken to China. Indeed, electrical and electronic waste is a very high economic, ecological and social stake.