Electrically heated gloves, flashing sports shoes or the bathroom cabinet with built-in lighting: From mid-August onwards, many everyday objects are classified as electronic waste and must be disposed of separately.

Flashing shoes will soon have to be disposed of separately.

SAmmelstelle for electronic scrap instead of bulky waste or old clothes bags: A new regulation of the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act (ElektroG) from August 15th brings changes for consumers as well. With the introduction of the so-called “Open Scope”, all electrical and electronic devices will in future fall under the law, unless they are expressly excluded.

This means that in the future, even old furniture or items of clothing with built-in electrical components can be turned into electronic waste that has to be disposed of separately. A clear indication is then the symbol with a crossed-out garbage can.

“This increases the spectrum of electrical appliances that are subject to the law,” says Ragna Sturm from the Elektro-Altgeräte Register foundation, which is responsible for implementing the law. The prerequisite for this, however, is that the electrical parts are installed in such a way that they cannot be removed without being destroyed.

Small businesses would become “dumps for online retail”

Instead of the previous ten categories, devices requiring recycling will in future be listed in just six categories, from lamps to screens and monitors to categories that are only defined by their dimensions. What is not brought to the recycling center by consumers themselves can, under certain conditions, be handed over to the retailer free of charge.

However, there is only an obligation to take back devices with an edge length of up to 25 centimeters or when buying a new device – provided that the shop has at least 400 square meters of sales area for electrical devices. Whether flashing shoes with a length of more than 25 centimeters are taken back is a goodwill of the retailer, said Sturm.

Small businesses would become “the dump of online trade”, the “Deutsche Handwerks-Zeitung” raised the alarm in an article a few weeks ago. The problems could worsen with the expansion of the disposal obligation. “Just think of height-adjustable desks, bathroom cabinets with LED lighting or jackets and shoes with small LED lamps sewn in, as well as gloves with heating elements,” the trade journal described the scenario.

Electronic waste is often disposed of illegally and exported

Consumers have been able to hand in their disused electrical devices since the end of July 2016; the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act (ElektroG) has been in force for several years. The aim of the law is to increase the collection rate for electronic waste and to ensure more recycling. Since the middle of last year, dealers who violate the take-back obligation have been threatened with high fines.

According to the Federal Environment Agency, around 722,000 tonnes of electrical appliances were collected in 2015, the majority of which (around 623,000 tonnes) came from private households.

The Deutsche Umwelthilfe complains, however, that of around 1.7 million tonnes of electronic waste that is generated in Germany every year, only around 40 percent are properly recorded. Most of it is illegally disposed of or exported, it said. Nothing is opposed to the high volume of waste and the small amount collected. Electrical and electronic equipment is becoming increasingly short-lived and difficult to repair, according to the organization.

From the point of view of the environmental association, however, the change in the law is an improvement. Because some of the bulky waste must now be treated as electronic scrap, and there are higher environmental requirements for this, said the waste expert at Deutsche Umwelthilfe, Philipp Sommer. The organization expects an increase in the amount of collected electronic waste due to the enlarged scope, but not an increase in the collection and recycling rates. In addition, there is a risk of a further increase in illegal imports, circumventing the applicable environmental laws, which require products to be registered.