Recycling law lowers hurdles: supermarket takes back old electrical appliances

Recycling law lowers hurdles
The supermarket takes back old electrical appliances

The recycling rate for electrical appliances leaves a lot to be desired. Many tons probably end up in the residual waste or are forgotten in cellars. With a new law, the federal government wants to encourage consumers to return goods: In future, this should be possible free of charge at discounters.

Whether old cell phones or defective razors: In the future, consumers should be able to hand in discarded electrical devices in supermarkets. The Bundestag decided to change the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act accordingly. The new regulation should lead to more devices being recycled. Specifically, consumers should be able to hand in old electrical appliances free of charge at many discounters or other food retailers by July 1, 2022 at the latest.

For small electrical appliances such as cell phones or flashlights, this applies regardless of the purchase of a new product, for larger appliances (over 25 centimeters) when purchasing a new item. The prerequisite is that the shop space is larger than 800 square meters and that the dealers themselves offer electrical appliances several times a year.

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze explained that easily accessible collection points are “the best prerequisite for properly disposing of old electrical appliances”. If old devices were properly collected, pollutants could be “reliably discharged and valuable raw materials recovered”. Your goal is to make the return of old electrical appliances “as easy as possible” – consumers should be able to do them “on the side”, for example when shopping.

Hundreds of thousands of tons lost

According to the Ministry of the Environment, around 86 percent of the electrical appliances collected were recycled in 2018. However, in the same year only around 43 percent of the old electrical appliances brought into circulation were actually collected. In absolute numbers, the Federal Environment Agency puts the electrical and electronic equipment put on the market at well over two million tons. Although not every new purchase of an electrical device generates a corresponding old device as waste, the discrepancy between purchased and disposed of material is striking: in 2018, only just under 550,000 tonnes were given to recycling centers. Only 100,000 tons were taken back by the distributors.

Schulze pointed out that old cell phones, flashlights and razors were often forgotten and stored in drawers. “Other end-of-life equipment ends up in the trash or is illegally marketed,” she added. The amendment to the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act now has to pass the Federal Council and is to come into force on January 1, 2022. A transition period of six months then applies to trading.