Expert: E-Waste Law will only succeed if public takes responsibility for recycling

February 20, 2014 03:03

European Recycling Platform CEO tells ‘Post’ about partnership with Israeli firm Ecommunity.

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Amir Peretz 370. (photo credit: Screenshot Channel 10)

Ensuring that members of the public are aware of their recycling obligations and opportunities will be key to the success of the country’s soon-to-be-implemented Electronic Waste Law, industry veteran Umberto Raiteri told The Jerusalem Post.

“The first of March should be considered a very important deadline where everyone will have more chances to dispose not only their electrical appliances but also small portable batteries,” Raiteri said on Tuesday. “They contain all kinds of dangerous materials like lead and mercury. It is important that there is the awareness that you can dispose it.”

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The date to which Raiteri referred is the moment that the Electronic Waste Law will begin to take force nationwide, at which time manufacturers, importers and marketers of electronics and batteries will become responsible for accepting used products of those types from members of the public. Once implemented, the law will require manufacturers and importers of electronic devices to recycle 50 percent of the total weight of electronic equipment they sell annually by the year 2021. In addition, the legislation obligates manufacturers and importers of batteries to recycle 30% to 35% of their products, depending on the type of batteries sold, by 2019.

Businesses that sell electronics will be required to accept old equipment without additional payment when a consumer is buying a new device of the same kind.

Meanwhile, the bill also requires that importers and manufacturers finance the treatment mechanisms for the waste.

As the president and CEO of the European Recycling Platform, a program operating in 13 countries and involving 2,500 companies, Raiteri aims to ensure compliance with Europe’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive.

Venturing outside of Europe, ERP recently took on 50 percent of Israeli electronic waste reuse facility Ecommunity, which employs disabled young adults to take apart the waste.

Ecommunity opened its initial facility in 2009, and inaugurated another facility in Karmiel’s Misgav industrial zone in a May 2013 ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz. The Post visited the facility that day, and met with the roughly 60 young Jewish and Arab men and women who sat meticulously poking through metal computer chassis, disassembling the fans, motherboards and the tiniest of internal components for reuse.

Raiteri and his colleagues at ERP made contact with Ecommunity and its professional operator, Ecology for the Sheltered Community, in the summer of 2013, and went on to acquire 50% of the firm in November. By January, Ecommunity received a permit from the Environmental Protection Ministry to operate a takeback scheme for electronic waste and batteries in Israel in conjunction with the waste law.

Although ERP typically launches its own companies in individual countries, Raiteri described its Israeli partnership as an ideal “cooperation between local knowledge and the reuse facility of Ecommunity together with our expertise, our tools.”

“This way of dealing not only with the typical industrial providers [brings] a different approach that is also very important as one of the values of the work,” Raiteri said.

Although Israel is not the first country that ERP has entered outside of Europe, as the company has begun to offer services in Canada and Brazil, Raiteri stressed that the nation is particularly important to his firm. Many of the large technological corporations that ERP already works with in Europe have production facilities, subsidiaries or big importers in Israel, all of which will need to meet new obligations in terms of recycling their electronic waste, he explained.

“We own a very high amount of knowledge, experience and skills that are definitely beneficial to be used in those countries where the legislation is under development and is being implemented,” Raiteri said.

As far as engaging the public is concerned, Raiteri said that in Europe, ERP has launched many events and projects with schools and universities, encouraging young people to engage in electronic waste recycling, in hopes that their behaviors will transfer to their parents.

Although Ecommunity’s Karmiel reuse facility is still small, Raiteri said he expects to launch “a ramp-up plan” for the next 18 months, expanding as necessary to accommodate the upcoming increase in specialized electronics disposal.

“This is a typical situation that we faced in every country,” he said. “It is important that the operations are proportionate to the size of waste returned by the consumer.”

Raiteri praised Ecommunity’s model for employing members of the disabled community, noting that while he has seen this strategy in some European countries, it is not yet a trend. After learning about this work environment, he said he would be interested in considering it as a viable option for future plants in other countries.

“[The employment of disabled people is] an important part because it is part of the knowhow and the spirit and the reason why Ecommunity is already operating in the market here,” Raiteri said.

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