Electronic waste: discounters will have to take back old electronic devices in the future

In many German drawers, old cell phones are waiting to be properly disposed of. In the future, consumers may be able to save themselves the trip to the recycling center: supermarkets and discounters should have to accept the goods by July 1, 2022 at the latest - and free of charge. This provides for a change in the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act, which the Bundestag has decided.

For small devices such as mobile phones or flashlights, the return applies regardless of whether a new product is purchased. For larger old devices, it applies when buying a new item.

The prerequisite for the extended take-back obligation is a retail space of more than 800 square meters. In addition, the affected dealers have to offer electrical appliances themselves several times a year. Regular sales of lamps are sufficient for this. The amendment to the law also provides that all collection points are given a uniform label. In this way, consumers should quickly identify the collection points.

Online retailers should also offer their customers a free collection and disposal of old devices with every purchase of new electrical appliances. The Federal Environment Ministry assumes that the new regulations will increase the collection and recycling rate. "Easily accessible collection points are the best prerequisite for properly disposing of old electrical appliances," said the head of the department Svenja Schulze (SPD). "If old devices are properly collected, pollutants can be reliably discharged and valuable raw materials recovered."

Otherwise, old cell phones, flashlights or razors would be forgotten and stored in drawers. »Other old devices end up in the residual waste or are illegally marketed. That has to change, «demanded Schulze. According to their ministry, around 86 percent of the waste electrical and electronic equipment collected was recycled in 2018. However, in the same year only around 43 percent of the waste electrical and electronic equipment brought into circulation was actually collected.

The change in the law still needs to be Bundesrat happen and should come into effect on January 1st. A transition period of six months applies to trading.