The rules in the Netherlands on waste are strict and the consequences of their violation far-reaching. Below we set out the main issues for businesses with regard to waste of electrical and electronic equipment (e-waste).
What is waste?
From a legal point of view, items are classified as "waste" much more quickly than everyday speech would suggest. As soon as someone has the intention of discarding an item, it is legally already considered to be waste, even if it is not defective or is capable of being recycled. For this reason, companies often unexpectedly find themselves being classified as waste processors or waste recipients and hence becoming subject to a host of assorted rules.
Regulation of e-waste
Waste is extensively regulated, due most obviously to the environmental and health risks involved in its storage, handling and transportation. Regulation is also based on the governmental interest in promoting recycling. For e-waste in particular, additional rules apply. These rules are based on the European WEEE Directive (No 2012/19/EU) and are implemented in the Netherlands through the Dutch Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (Regeling afgedankte elektrische en elektronische apparatuur). Warning: tighter supervision The Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) is the primary authority in the Netherlands for overseeing compliance with waste rules. In recent years the ILT has exercised closer supervision in this regard, which has led to an increased interest in this subject among NautaDutilh's clients. The ILT makes no secret of its particular focus on e-waste. For example, in its 2016 annual report (published on 1 June 2017), the ILT states that it conducted e-waste inspections at 106 scrap companies. In 39 cases e-waste was being processed and 31 companies ended up receiving an official warning.
E-waste at your company?
Your company, too, might be subject to all kinds of e-waste rules. The following are three examples of scenarios in which such rules will apply:
Your company receives in any way discarded electrical or electronic equipment. For example, you take in used electronic goods, or collect all your branches' discarded computers at your head office. As it is possible that you therefore constitute an e-waste recipient, we recommend that you at least seek advice on whether you are required to register in the National (W)EEE Register. Checking this register will also be the first supervisory step for the ILT.
Your company sells devices with a plug or battery to consumers. At the time of a sale, you must agree to take in the same type of device from the purchasing consumer; this also applies if you are exclusively an online seller. If your store is larger than 400 square meters you must also agree to take in devices smaller than 25 centimetres free of charge from any consumer even if no purchase is made. The legal responsibility for the proper processing of devices taken in from consumers lies with you.
Your company wishes to discard any electrical or electronic devices. Unlike a consumer, you cannot hand them in free of charge when purchasing a replacement. If you fail to ensure that such waste devices are properly processed as required by law, administrative enforcement measures or criminal prosecution may ensue. Check for example if the waste processor to whom you give the devices is registered in the (W)EEE Register.