Collectively, EU Member States collect and recover more discarded electrical and electronic equipment than most of the world. But the EU risks missing its more ambitious e-waste collection targets. A review by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) points out a number of challenges, for instance the need to ensure and check compliance with the existing rules, and with the problem of breaches and criminal activities, such as illegal shipments to countries outside the EU.
E-waste – discarded electrical and electronic tools, household appliances and even large equipment such as photovoltaic panels – is harmful to the environment if it is not treated properly. E-waste also often contains recyclable materials such as metals and plastics. It can therefore contribute to the circular economy. For instance, 1 tonne of smartphones contains about 100 times more gold than 1 tonne of gold ore.
“The collection and recovery of e-waste in the EU has improved over time, and the EU currently recycles about 80 % of the e-waste it collects,” said Joëlle Elvinger, the ECA member responsible for the review. “However, the collection, recycling and reuse of e-waste are not equally effective in all Member States, and could be further increased. We also observed some challenges in the way the EU deals with the mismanagement of e-waste, illegal shipments and other criminal activities.”