European Union sets lofty goals to improve e-waste recycling

The European Parliament's environmental committee recently voted in a landmark decision to increase e-waste recycling rates across the entirety of the economic bloc. According to, the committee voted 52-1 to require businesses to recycle 85 percent of their e-waste and to seriously crack down on the amount of old equipment that is exported illegally to developing countries.

"Collecting and recycling e-waste is good for the environment and good for the economy," rapporteur Karl-Heinz Florenz told the news source. "Parliament's ambitious but achievable targets will help recover valuable raw materials and cut the flow of e-waste to landfills, incinerators and developing countries."

In the past, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive required businesses to fund e-waste recycling with an annual target of 4 kilograms per person. While this was certainly a progressive step forward, it did little to curb the exportation of these products to Africa and Asia where they are broken down for their raw materials. Many of these facilities are barely environmentally sound and they create a black market for parts and other materials that is hard to control.

The European Union hopes that its member states will be able to achieve a 65 percent recycling rate by 2020 and further increase the percentage after that. There are also separate targets for businesses to reuse at least 5 percent of the old computers and cell phones that are collected to remove them from the waste stream. On a worldwide scale, this is one of the most ambitious e-waste recycling programs ever attempted, so it will be interesting to see if businesses can adapt to the new regulations. The WEEE Directive could be the catalyst that creates a sustainable business environment for years to come.