The ECOLEC Foundation is a non-profit organization that was born to defend the environment and has a firm commitment to sustainable development. Its objective is to efficiently finance the collection, treatment, recovery and disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) as established by law.
Ecolec warns of the deficient recycling of electrical appliances due to the confinement
It is for this reason that ECOLEC shows its concern about dates such as Black Friday (today) or Cyber Monday next Monday, since 25% of the purchases of technological devices take place on them, together with Christmas.
This implies a significant peak of old products to be removed from homes in a controlled way, something that is currently complicated by the increase in online purchases. due to Covid-19, where the delivery of the old product is not always possible, although it must be facilitated regardless of the channel.
What is the role of ECOLEC?
Comply with the legal obligation of the manufacturers regarding the end of the useful life of the devices. ECOLEC coordinates their collection on behalf of the manufacturers so that they are recycled or revalued. We take care of the collection and transport to the recycling plants, but not the recycling itself.
And the benefit that the company obtains from its foundation?
There are several advantages; The first is that if we collect waste in a controlled way, we prevent it from polluting the environment. Second, that by doing a treatment in a controlled way we avoid the emission of gases, heavy metals or oils that would otherwise go to landfills.
But also, by collecting and reusing the materials that make up the devices, we can reuse them as raw material for manufacturing and therefore we stop extracting materials from nature, stressing the environment.
For example, 70% of the copper used today in Europe to make cables comes from recycled copper, something that affects mining productivity, de-stressing the areas where it occurs. Thus we avoid the consumption of energy, water and gas emissions that would occur in the extraction of the mineral.
A third value is the creation of green jobs, because recycling means creating jobs for the recycling industry, which is a field of the green economy with great potential and future, precisely in line with the projects of the current government of Spain.
What prospects for the amount of electronic waste do you have for this Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
We are very concerned about the increase in online sales through market places They do not offer the possibility of controlled removal of the devices, and for this reason the consumer disposes of them through other channels.
One of them is the withdrawal at a clean point, a correct operation but which overloads the municipalities with work. Another is, especially for small products, the waste basket, what we know as garbage, or the gray container. The products that go to this channel go out of our control and end up in a landfill.
We must be aware that in the month that links Black Friday with Christmas, a quarter of the annual sales of consumer electronics are sold. This implies a wave of appliances that are removed from the houses and therefore will become a waste that ECOLEC must control.
What do users need to know about sellers' liability for withdrawal?
This is a peak month when it comes to our work, and the problem above all lies with the small devices, since many end up in the garbage bag or the gray container. And many times this happens because the consumer is not aware that he has the right to exchange the old one for a new product, and the store has the obligation to collect it and notify ECOLEC.
The regulations give a period of up to 30 days for this withdrawal, always free. In addition, for the smallest devices, less than 25 cm as they are mobile, in those surfaces with more than 400 m² available for sale the consumer has the right, without obligation to purchase, to deliver the device for removal.
Has the confinement been noticed regarding the removal of technological waste?
During the health crisis we had a very important drop in the amounts we were collecting in those months, then consumption was reactivated and it was when the user withdrew a lot of product that he had not been able to withdraw before due to confinement.
The fact is that there were massive withdrawals at the clean point, a sign that online shopping had increased a lot, a channel where the possibility of collection is not so simple and many times complicated or impossible.
So does the increase in online purchases lead to a worse management of this type of waste?
In part yes, because either we recycle at the clean point overloading municipal tasks, or small products are thrown away, because many market place And the stores that sell in them do not offer the possibility of withdrawing the old product, when they are required by law. Consequently the consumer, who has the right to have the old product withdrawn also on the internet, loses an important channel.
Are you telling me that Amazon should pick up my old phone if I buy a new one?
Yes, it must and in fact it gives the possibility of claiming it if the replacement is desired, through the button to return a product; It is a hidden alternative but it exists. And it is also offered by other chains such as Carrefour or Lidl, as well as businesses that adhere to the European recycling standard.
The problem comes from the sales businesses that operate in the market place Such as Amazon or AliExpress, which are not based in Europe and therefore do not take care of the collection, so the consumer does not know what to do with the old product, because he does not know his rights.
Ideally, these businesses would be registered in Spain and comply with European legislation, but we assume that is complicated. In France they are trying to involve the logistics operator of the delivery in the withdrawal, but at the moment in Spain there is no similar initiative.
For its part, Amazon at the European level has proposed a recycling rate for products and take care of their withdrawal, however that goes against European legislation, which does not provide intermediaries in recycling between the consumer and the manufacturer.
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