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WEEE - Combating the obsolescence of computers and other devices


Source: European Parliament Register

Subject: Answer to written question on Combating the obsolescence of computers and other devices,  11 December  2012

Question for written answer E-009545/2012 to the Commission Rule 117 Diogo Feio (PPE)

Subject: Combating the obsolescence of computers and other devices

The constant appearance of information and communication technology devices and systems clearly shows the speed with which new versions replace the old ones and then they also soon become obsolete. Any attempt to impede or halt this constant innovation would risk undermining the creative process, nvolve disproportionate costs for companies investing in improvements and hinder competition in a market which is supposed to be free. However, it is clear that the recurrent obsolescence of devices and systems has a huge environmental impact and that steps will have to be taken to promote the recycling of older equipment or to encourage updating instead of discarding.

1. What is the Commission’s assessment of the level of waste in this sector?


2. What is the environmental impact of the constant obsolescence of computers and other devices?


3. Does the Commission consider that it should intervene in order to instil in consumers the idea of replacing their equipment less frequently or recycling it?


4. What measures have been taken or will be taken in this regard?

Answer given by Mr Potočnik on behalf of theCommission

The level of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) generated is estimated to be around 10 million tonnes per year in the EU.  By 2020, it is stimated that the volume of WEEE will increase to 12 million tons. The new collection targets agreed with Directive 2012/19/EU will ensure that around 10 million tons will be separately collected from 2019 onwards.


The environmental impact of information and communication technology (ICT) is mainly related to energy consumption in the use phase and pollution caused by the production of hardware. The latter can be reduced considerably if electronic devices are used for a longer period, reused or recycled.

The Commission encourages longer use and recycling of ICT through the policy on green public procurement and environmental labelling. As regards omputers purchased by  public authorities, the Commission recommends to contracting authorities that they include in their tenders requirements for upgradability, the availability of spare parts and (for PCs) the possibility to exchange the hard disk and the CD drive[1]. The EU Ecolabel scheme includes criteria on user reparability, design for disassembly and lifetime extension[2].

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