The ElektroG from the perspective of citizens
Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) may not be disposed of in residual waste! Whether smartphone, PC, hairdryer, coffee machine or refrigerator, an ever-shrinking supply of raw materials is used in all electrical appliances that are part of our daily lives. Sustainable and proper recycling of valuable substances is only possible if the old devices are dropped off at designated collection sites.
Before waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is dropped off for disposal, the possibility to reuse it should be examined. Continued use elsewhere is often more sustainable than scrapping. There are several certified companies who buy the used equipment. Or the decommissioned or discarded but still functional device is sold on relevant online portals to another user.
The ElektroG (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act) regulates the sale, return and environmentally friendly disposal of electrical and electronic equipment. The ElektroG was amended on 24 October 2015, and so implemented the provisions under European law of the so-called WEEE directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment in German law.
Notes on handling batteries
Batteries and rechargeable batteries are not covered by the ElektroG, although they are part of many electrical devices. If possible, remove them before dropping off the WEEE and hand them in at stores or at a collection point for WEEE at the municipality. If the battery or rechargeable battery is not easy to remove, try not to remove it yourself. There are special containers for collecting devices such as smartphones, tablets or electric toothbrushes at the WEEE collection centres. Batteries do not belong in the household waste. Another option is the stiftung ear portal or the collection site locator for LED and energy-saving light bulbs of Lightcycle.
What costs do citizens have to bear?
Small quantities of WEEE for private use can be dropped off free of charge. The cost of disposal is already included in the product price and is paid by the consumer when purchasing a device. The establishment and operation of the municipal collection sites are borne by the waste charges. If a citizen requests a pick-up service, the municipality can charge these costs to the account of the respective citizen. The same applies in the case of improperly packaged night storage heaters which can contain asbestos being dropped off. A right to collection from the household by the municipality does not exist. The same applies to proper professional data erasure. This falls under the responsibility of the last owner.
The objectives of the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act (ElektroG)
The ElektroG is aimed at the protection of the environment and health. It is also meant to help to conserve natural resources. Key to this is that the WEEE is supplied to a professional disposal facility and recycled as efficiently as possible.
In addition, the amended ElektroG creates effective measures by which illegal exports of WEEE can be consistently prevented.
At 7.6 kg per inhabitant and year, nearly twice as many WEEE were collected separately in Germany in 2013 as prescribed by the EU. The average share of recycled and recovered waste is also well above the European requirements.
What are the collection targets?
A phased increase in the collection targets is defined in the ElektroG.
In 2016, 45% of the average weight of devices placed on the market in the last three years should be taken back.
In 2019, 65% of the average weight of devices placed on the market in the last three years should be taken back.
Important secondary raw materials can be gained through certified recycling and natural resources conserved.
What are my obligations as a citizen?
Citizens are obliged to dispose of their WEEE at the municipal collection sites. Alternatively, they can use a return or take-back system provided by the manufacturer or distributor of electrical and electronic equipment. Old batteries and old rechargeable batteries that are not enclosed in the WEEE must be taken out of the device before dropping the WEEE off at the collection site. Drop-off at the collection is free of charge.
Under no circumstances may electrical appliances be disposed of in the household waste. This not only leads to a loss of valuable raw materials, but harmful substances also end up in the household waste.
What penalties exist for non-performance of obligations?
The illegal disposal of WEEE is prohibited. There is a catalogue of fines that apply to such penalties, the amounts of which differ from state to state. The penalties varies and are between € 10.00 and € 10,000.00. All the penalties for the individual states are listed in the catalogue of fines.
What happens to sensitive information on an old mobile phone or PC?
Data on WEEE is not deleted at the collection sites. This is every citizen's own responsibility. Photos of children, sensitive calendar entries or medical documents are better kept by the owner of these themselves. If the data is on the storage media of discarded devices such as digital cameras, computers, MP3 players or mobile phones, you should perform a special deletion for safety sake. Conventional deletion or formatting is usually easily reversible and only sufficient if no personal information is stored. Which information is stored and whether a secure deletion is necessary should be decided prior to dropping off the WEEE.
Data can be deleted with so-called "physical deletion programs" so that the data cannot be restored anymore. These programs overwrite deleted data multiple times, so that the old data cannot be restored. This method is also recommended by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). A number of providers can be found on the Internet. Your nearest Consumer Protection Office will also be able to provide you with information.
How do I know which equipment I can drop off?
Citizens can recognise from the device identification with the symbol of the "crossed-out wheeled bin" which devices are accepted by the collection sites or take-back systems and may not be disposed of in the private household waste.