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In Germany, the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act implements the EU directives RoHS (prohibition of hazardous substances) and WEEE (handling of electronic waste).
Due to the rapidly increasing number of electrical and electronic equipment and the rapidly growing number of discarded equipment (electronic scrap), the European Commission has adopted the following two directives in 2003:
- Directive 2002/96 / EC on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
- Directive 2002/95 / EC on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS, Restriction of Hazardous Substances)
These directives were transposed into national law in the Federal Republic of Germany by the Act on the Placing, Taking Back and the Environmentally Sound Disposal of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (Elektro- und Elektronikgerätegesetz – ElektroG) of 16 March 2005, which required the approval of the Bundesrat ( Law of consent). The central concern is the reduction of harmful substances in the electronics as well as the avoidance and reduction of electronic waste by reuse. The ban on pollutants will apply from July 1, 2006 and include lead, mercury, cadmium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) and chromium VI compounds. Collecting, recycling and recycling quotes are set with the goal of collecting at least four kilograms of electronic waste per inhabitant per year from private households and recycling them ecologically.
In order to transport as large a quantity of electrical and electronic equipment as possible to an environmentally friendly disposal, consumers should be able to dispose of their no longer required equipment free of charge at municipal collection points. These collection points must be equipped with a sufficient number of containers for the reception of the old equipment. The further utilization and recycling of the old equipment is taken over by the manufacturers of the electrical and electronic equipment, which must be registered in Germany. They must demonstrate that the financing of disposal of their private household appliances manufactured after August 2005 is secured. The obligation to register is intended to prevent manufacturers placing devices on the market in an anti-competitive manner without complying with their take-back and disposal obligations.
Appropriate regulations should apply to commercial devices. The manufacturers are responsible for the withdrawal and recycling of equipment sold from August 2005, but not for the commercial stock on the market. The recycling or removal of this „old stock“ must be organized by the commercial owners themselves. Contractual agreements with third parties regarding the return of old equipment and costs are possible according to the planned regulations.
Tasks of the manufacturers, old equipment owners and disposal authorities
The collection of appliances from private households is usually carried out by local authorities. In this respect, the recording of the devices will not change in many municipalities. Traders can also take back old equipment on a voluntary basis. What is new is that owners of old equipment are now obliged to transfer the old equipment to a separate collection from the unsorted municipal waste. The return of the appliances from private households at the municipal collecting points is free of charge.
Another new feature is that public waste disposal companies provide the collected equipment for collection in five groups sorted according to different categories. The manufacturers now collect these old devices and are responsible for their environmentally friendly disposal. The calculation of the logging logistics is the responsibility of a foundation founded by the manufacturers.
Special regulations apply to the collection and disposal of commercial waste. Manufacturers and users can, however, contractually define who is responsible for fulfilling these legal obligations.
In order for manufacturers and municipalities to prepare themselves for their new tasks, and to ensure a smooth start of the implementation of the law, transitional provisions have been introduced into the electrical code: the manufacturer ’s registration is subject to a transitional period of eight months for the collection and provision of the Old appliances by the local authorities and the return and disposal by manufacturers, a transition period of twelve months after the promulgation of the law was provided.
On 24 November 2005, the 8-month transition period expired. As of this date, all manufacturers who place electrical and electronic equipment on the market in Germany must be registered with the competent authority (Stiftung Elektrodelegatenregister).
As of 24 March 2006, the next stage of the ElektroG was followed: End users are now obliged to hand over their old equipment to the separate collection, the public waste disposal authorities collect the equipment they have returned from private households free of charge and make it available in five groups, The producers are responsible for the return and disposal of the old equipment.
The individual deadlines for German companies are as follows:
- 1 June 2005: Original date for the start of registration at the EAR (test registrations earlier).
- 24 November 2005: Each manufacturer must be registered, otherwise the placing on the market of devices may be prohibited.
- 24 March 2006: At this time, new equipment must at the latest comply with the labeling requirements of the law.
- 1 July 2006: Limit values for certain pollutants in new devices are valid and must be observed.
- 31 December 2006: Producers (or importers) as well as distributors must prove and communicate their exploitation quotas.
Manufacturers and importers of such devices must register with the EAR (Elektro-Altgeräte-Register) if they wish to continue using the German market after the deadline 24 March 2006.
According to EAR, only a registration number in the format WEEE Reg. DE 123456 is permitted as of that date (in accordance with the public notice on the EAR website) as proof of a legally registered registration under the labeling requirement. This means that devices or devices which are not marked accordingly, which have been marked using an intermediate „InterimsID“, can no longer be sold.
Affected companies or freelancers should consult with the competent Chamber of Industry and Commerce or the EAR website.
The EAR Foundation has its own website.
Companies will incur costs for the conversion of the products, possibly additional costs for the production, as well as costs for the registration / membership at the EAR. For devices in the lower price segment, price increases between 10 and 25 percent can be expected: eg 25 to 30 Euro for a refrigerator or 40 Eurocent for a fluorescent tube (Source: Heise.de)
The ElektroG and many other national implementations of WEEE and RoHS create a variety of organizational, financial and legal problems, primarily for small and medium-sized businesses.
The national WEEE implementations require a registration and participation in the local disposal system from every „manufacturer“ in the country in which he places his equipment. This also applies to mail-order transactions directly to end-users in other EU countries. Interestingly, some of these national laws are only available in the country language, or prohibit registration without a company seat in the respective country. In Germany this foreclosure, which is contrary to the EU internal market, is achieved by the registration at the EAR, which according to the current state is only possible with a German account connection, which in turn can only be obtained with a branch office in Germany.
In order to be able to continue to sell in the whole EU, a „manufacturer“ needs either a branch in each country, or a dealer that takes over the manufacturer’s obligations. Unrealizable for many smaller companies.
Very inadequate in the ElektroG are the definitions which exactly one device is and who as a manufacturer applies. The fact is, however, that there is no limit to the quantities from which a manufacturer must register and bear the entire cost burden. With small companies, real disposal costs of just a few euros can easily be offset by a registration fee of EAR of 700-800 euros.
As regards the improvement of the environmental compatibility of electrical and electronic equipment by the ban on lead, there are clearly different opinions. The lead-free solders require higher soldering temperatures, which are associated with longer heating and cooling phases, which leads to approx. 20-30% more energy consumption during soldering. The long-term stability of lead-free solders is not sufficiently investigated, but it is to be feared that even bulk goods will have a significantly shorter service life due to the whisker formation of pure tin.