Recommendation how to upgrade informal sector activities regarding EEE re-use and WEEE recycling

The informal sector is one of the most important stakeholders in the EEE reuse and WEEE recycling system in developing countries. Waste pickers and traders are active both in visiting households to buy EEE for further refurbishment or WEEE for selling to recyclers; also waste sorting takes place in landfills.

It confirms the notion, that today developing countries are notably more familiar with and more efficient in reuse and refurbishment operations. In this sense, a culture of ‘waste prevention’ and “repair and reuse” is much wider present than in western societies. The main issue in this respect is rather more the fact that environmental and human health issues are often not prioritized when refurbishment activities are carried out in poor and developing contexts. According to this, the following paragraphs focus on the way European members states organize the reuse and refurbishment sector in a way it is reported and safe.

Examples of measures put in place to foster reuse and refurbishment activities in Europe

In Europe reuse and recovery of EEE/WEEE is a part of wider socioeconomic and environmental policy and certain legislative measures and voluntary programs have been introduced. This legislative initiative is acquired differently by member states. Here are some examples of actions, which accompany the implementation of such measures:

  • A feasibility study (a market is already in place or potentially in place);
  • Link reuse/refurbishment programs to job acts for the integration of social marginalities. Here for example the employment of marginal social strata within a company dedicated to reuse activities is financially supported by the government or an interested third party;
  • Social enterprises employing social marginal strata in reuse/refurbishment activities are recognized by law as regular waste operators: this ensures that a number of bureaucratic burdens typical for the waste management sector are avoided and a considerable number of stakeholders can be involved in the reuse sector;
  • Technical requirements for reuse/refurbishment activities are not highly sophisticated;
  • An intermediate status between ‘product’ and ‘waste’ is recognized by law;
  • The status of ‘recovered EEE’ is recognized with some forms of warranties by the refurbishment companies (e.g. warranties of functionality, application of a new brand/mark,);
  • Refurbished EEE flows should be traceable, for instance by the establishment of a registry;
  • Reuse and refurbishment operators can make agreements with producers or compliance schemes in order to get financial support to their activities and provide WEEE to be destined to a proper management when UEEE are tested as not recoverable;
  • Refurbishment and reuse companies are requested to meet certain standards which have to be verified by a third external entity (human protection equipment, environment protection measures,)

It should be noted that in the framework of the recently announced “Circular Economy Policy” of the EU it can be expected that also in the WEEE area there will a strong emphasis on repair and reuse and ambitious targets set also on a producer level.

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