Electrical and electronic equipment is a diverse and very dynamic product group, characterised on the one hand by ever shorter lifecycles and rising sales figures and on the other hand by a long life and high value material contents. Over the last eight years an average of 720,000 tonnes of waste per year has been produced by private households in Germany. Discarded waste equipment belongs to various categories such as
- large household appliances: for example, washing machines, refrigerators, freezers, stoves;
- small household appliances: for example vacuum cleaners, coffee makers, microwaves;
- information and communication technology devices such as computers, monitors, printers, cell phones, telephones;
- consumer electronics devices, for example televisions, VCRs, digital cameras;
- gas discharge lamps.
Electrical and electronic equipment contains a variety of substances and materials If waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is not appropriately disposed of, for example with household waste, there may be environmental risks due to the harmful substances they contain. In addition to harmful substances such as heavy metals and CFCs, WEEE also contains a number of valuable materials, which must recovered and recycled. This allows primary raw materials (and thus their elaborate production) to be replaced and makes an essential contribution to the conservation of natural resources.
To achieve these goals in Germany the Act Governing the Sale, Return and Environmentally Sound Disposal of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act – ElektroG) in implementation of Directive 2012/19 / EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) sets forth concrete obligations for all relevant stakeholders (manufacturers, trade, municipalities, owners, disposers). Waste prevention, reasonable checks concerning the possibility of preparing for re-use of whole appliances or individual components as well as the extensive recycling of waste will make a substantial contribution to the conservation of natural resources and the reduction of pollutant emissions.