China Approves E-Waste Regulation – Systems Proposed, Penalties Established

CHINA – The State Council has approved a draft regulation on the management of electronic waste or WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), which will tightly control the end-of-life use of main consumer electrical products such as televisions and computers.

As with most of China’s new wave of environmental legislation, the regulation was initially issued in draft form “for public comment” before being passed into law.

As China: Draft Proposal on Recycling and Treatment of Waste Electrical Appliances, Proposed Regulation, substantial revisions were made “following years of debate” according to Xinhua news agency and a new draft issued in June 2006 – effectively China’s WEEE regulation.

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While the currently approved draft may contain minor changes, the key points of the 2006 draft regulation are as follows:

Promulgated in line with of the Clean Production Promotion Law and the Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution Caused by Solid Waste, to regulate the recycling and treatment of waste electrical and electronic appliances, protect and improve the environment, and safeguard human health. It is also intended to promote the circular use of resources, a clear reference in the first Article to the Cycling Economy Law.

It requires mandatory recycling of, electrical and electronic appliances discarded by the consumer, elements, parts, spares and components and consumable materials discarded in the process of manufacturing [and/or] maintaining the electrical and electronic appliance.

As with all Chinese legislation of this nature, the WEEE regulations, come with the Main Body of the Law and supplementary Appendix, known as the ‘Catalogue.’  Essentially if a product is listed in the Catalogue or referred to in the main body, then all the product parts, components, spares, and consumables will be covered by this law.

The 2008 draft Catalogue requires mandatory recycling of; Televisions of all types (CRT, LCD, etc), refrigerators, washing machines, air-conditioners, and computers – this, however, is listed as ‘batch one’ an indicator that the Catalogue is to be expanded greatly.

  • Recycling shall be conducted only by operators licensed by the relevant local authority department charged with ‘resource comprehensive use’ – allowing for the fact that different regions or cities may have allocated different responsibilities to various departments.
  • A special fund for Waste Electrical and Electronic Appliance Treatment is to be set up by these departments responsible for ‘resource comprehensive use’, which will come under the scrutiny of the State Council.
  • Manufacturers must adopt product designs that use nonhazardous treatment of resources, select non- or minimally hazardous and toxic materials or materials that are easily recycled and reused, and meet recoverability ratio to be set. Manufacturers should also use designs that favor ‘circular use’.
  • They should also provide information on the product composition, recycling and treatment instructions associated with the product and materials – this overlaps with provisions in China’s RoHS regulation.
  • Article 10 requires manufacturers to deliver waste electrical and electronic appliances generated in the manufacturing process to qualified treatment enterprises, while waste electrical and electronic appliances must be recycled through a sale and post-sale service outlets, and deliver the waste electrical and electronic appliances to licensed treatment enterprises.

Consumer Responsibilities

Community recycling networks for waste electrical and electronic appliance recycling are to be encouraged, as the establishment of a comprehensive recycling system, which should include treatment enterprises, manufacturers, used goods business operators to facilitate waste recycling and treatment. None of the products covered by WEEE shall be permitted to enter the Municipal Waste stream.

Legal Liabilities

The Legislation includes clear and specific legal liabilities and penalties:

  • Dealers and post-sale service operators that do not take manufacturers’ product to qualified treatment operators shall be punished with a fine up to US$7,300 (¥50,000).
  • Used or second-hand dealers with products which have not been tested and labeled by qualified treatment operators may have used household appliances, earnings and profits confiscated and face fines of up to US$7,300 per item.
  • For unauthorized dismantling, assembly and parts sales fines ranging from $700 to $6,000 will be imposed.
  • The ‘chief officer’ of government departments and other public servants failing to recycle e-waste shall face disciplinary action.
  • Where serious losses are incurred by consumers due to the sale of waste. Or second-hand, electrical and electronic appliances, the operators may have their business licenses revoked or suspended, be subject to criminal proceedings.
  • In an anti-corruption measure, the Law states, “Governmental functionaries who abuse power, trifle with duty, or practice favoritism and engage in irregularities in manners that constitute crimes, shall be subject o criminal responsibilities.”

Implications for Packaging

While not a ‘packaging’ issue directly, China’s WEEE regulations mirror many of the provisions and implementation processes currently being introduced under the Packaging Master Plan (the Method for Administration of Recycling Packaging Materials).

In particular the establishment of collection and recycling centers and the separation of municipal and e-waste into different waste streams in order to better manage the mega Recycling Industrial Zones to be established by 2012 in most of China’s 100 cities which have populations of more than one million people.

By Stuart Hoggard, Packwebasia

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