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BIR Amsterdam Convention - E-Scrap Committee: Putting together the pieces of the global e-waste puzzle

  • 26 May 2023

The global reach of e-waste issues was illustrated at the latest meeting of the BIR E-Scrap Committee, with guest presentations shedding light on latest developments in Europe, South America and the Middle East. Taking place in Amsterdam on May 23, the event was chaired by Jan Visser of Mirec Benelux (part of Remondis/TSR).

The complexity of the e-waste “puzzle” in Europe was highlighted by Julie-Ann Adams, Chief Executive Officer of the European Electronics Recyclers Association (EERA). The review of the EU’s WEEE Directive was coinciding with efforts towards creating an EU Critical Raw Materials Act, the latter being significant for e-waste given that it constituted “a valuable source of critical raw materials”, she told delegates. In addition to these developments, the new Basel Convention codes applying to e-waste from January 1 2025 “are going to have a major impact” on global movements and required forward planning by all involved.

Taking each of these in turn, Ms Adams said EERA’s key response to the European Commission’s Call for Evidence in evaluation of the existing WEEE Directive was that “there is one Directive but 27 different versions implemented in Member States”. Her association was calling for harmonization of all requirements in the form of a regulation and mandatory hand-over of all WEEE, meaning producer responsibility for all electrical and electronic equipment.

Regarding critical raw materials, or CRMs, EERA has identified some of the main barriers to their recovery in Europe, including a lack of information on where the key CRMs can be found. According to Ms Adams, there was a need to “advocate the use of secondary raw materials” as these increased the security of a national supply.

The speaker concluded by explaining that a prior informed consent (PIC) notification procedure was set to apply to all electrical and electronic waste with effect from the start of 2025 as a result of a UN Basel Convention decision taken last year. Ms Adams contended that the competent authorities were not prepared for what would be a surge in PIC applications.

Fellow guest speaker Antonia Biggs, General Manager of the Chilean Association of Recycling Industries (ANIR), explained that her country’s extended producer responsibility law incorporated electrical and electronic devices as one of six priority products, with the volumes available nationally in 2023 put at 216,170 tonnes. The deadline for preparing a proposal establishing collection/recovery goals as well as other obligations had been extended until July this year, she said.

A new recruit to the BIR E-Scrap Committee, Yousef Al Sharif of Sharif Metals Group identified construction/infrastructure projects and substantial tech-related consumption among expatriate populations as key sources of e-waste in the Middle East where an estimated 1.74 million tonnes was generated in 2022. A 25% increase in this figure is anticipated by the year 2030.

Given the growing interest in e-waste recycling in the region as well as enhanced corporate social responsibility commitments, “we believe huge potential lies ahead”, the speaker concluded.