« NASA and the Faked Moon Landings. | Main | 1895 8 th Grade Test. »

July 16, 2004

European Union and Landfill Rules.

The Torygraph has a list of those items that are now on the danger list for disposal, effectively making them illegal to deposit in any but the most rigorously policed landfill sites (ie, down from some 250 alternatives to 5 or so). This is a story that Christopher Booker has been all over recently.
A couple of items stand out for me given the detailed knowledge I have from various oddments of work. The restriction on inks for example. This means that those who collect used ink jet cartridges for recycling (one of those sorts of things you would expect people to support, given the reuse of resources etc etc etc) are now dealing in a "red list" item. Such a classification means that every movement requires that a form be filled in and filed with the Environment Ministry of whichever country the movement takes place in. It also means that any movement between two EU countries (one should note that a movement from an OECD country to a non OECD country is absolutely not permitted) can only be done by two companies licensed to deal with that specific subset of red list goods. As an example, there are only two companies in Portugal with such a full licence and one company that I know on a provisional licence has had full approval refused as the hand washing sink appears to be in the wrong place.
Now all of this might make sense to some. However, you have to think about exactly how such things as used ink jet cartridges are collected. How do they get from user's homes and offices to the recyclers? There are various collection methods, charity drives, boxes to deposit them in stores where you buy replacements, FREEPOST addresses to mail them to, any number of attempts to collect and profit from the value of these items. However, on a strict interpretation of the law, all of these require, at each stage of movement, that the above form be filed with Whitehall.
Yup, really. Your donation of one used cartridge to Action Aid (to give an example of a charity that makes a lot of money from these schemes) should be accompanied by a form listing the movement of hazardous goods. As these things may be worth a pound or two at best, are we absolutely certain that this is the way to increase recycling?
The other item is electrical and electronic goods. Think, for a moment, of TVs and computer monitors, otherwise known as CRTs. The idea of these not going into landfills is that they contain lead which might leach into the groundwater. Again, this might sound reasonable. However (again!) the regulations are cast in such a mannner that they decrease the likelihood of recycling. The lead in a CRT is in two places. One is in the solder. There are well established methods of recovering such solder from circuit boards along with the gold and copper that they also contain. I know of several companies that would be delighted to take old computers and the like to recover them, perhaps even paying you for the privilege of doing so. (It might be worth noting that the recovered and purified solder actually sells at a premium to virgin material, about 10%, the electronics manufacturing industry being so interested in using it.) The second source of lead is in the glass of the screen which is usually 25% lead oxide. This helps to stop your brain frying on the radiation given off by the tube itself.
Under the EU rules this second source of lead has to be treated in the same way as the first, with no acknowledgement of the fact that metallic lead in an alloy (solder) is a completely different item from lead oxide in glass. Glass is just about the most stable item that we know of, metals simply do not leach out of it. Do we really worry about silicon leaching out of sand into drinking water? Lead glasses are actually what is used to encapsulate (vitrify) nuclear wastes and keep them away from the water supply for up to 5,000 years.
Treating both sorts of lead as one means that recyclers do not want to take CRTs as they have to apply, incorrectly, the same recovery processes to the glass as they do to the solder.
Just another example of your tax money at work, wasting further resources, making recycling less likely and all the while claiming to make the world a cleaner and better place.
Thanks EU.

Update. This Telegraph piece. Effectively the scrap metal industry has closed down. Way to go boys!!

July 16, 2004 in European Union | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference European Union and Landfill Rules.: