Julie-Ann Adams (Managing Director, Really Green Credentials Ltd) explains the first European Standard for the preparing for re-use process of WEEE, EN 50614:2020.
The re-use of consumer and commercial electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is not only part of the waste reduction agenda but is also necessary for the progression towards a circular economy. The recast of the WEEE Directive (2012/19/EC) introduced the concept of the re-use of WEEE including its’ components and consumables. Additionally, on-going EU and UK objectives are working towards better design of new EEE, with the availability of user repair manuals and parts, and longer life span requirements.
Whilst the idea of re-use is positive, there exists a need to address a general demand for reassurance (from consumers, retailers, charities, and other organisations) that products that have been discarded by the last holder are suitable for re-use, have been competently tested and are both safe to use and functionally fit for purpose. The original manufacturers of the equipment, whose brand name and reputation are paramount, also needed re-assurance that their safety liabilities and reputation would be safeguarded after a re-use process had been applied. With the growing demand for internet-ready ‘smart’ appliances and awareness of data protection issues, assurances were also needed by manufacturers, consumers and businesses that provided evidence that all personal and confidential data is removed prior to re-use, including when products are exported and returned to the market overseas.
EN 50614 – the background
EN 50614 is the first (and only) European Standard for the preparing for re-use process of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), which addresses these concerns.
The PAS 141 Specification developed in the UK in 2009-2013 by the Governments’ WEEE Advisory Body, was used as the foundation of the new EN Standard by CENELEC[i], the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization responsible for standardisation in the electrotechnical engineering field. This work commenced in 2013, and “EN 50614 Preparing for Re-use” was later published across the Community in February 2020. The PAS 141 Specification was withdrawn and superseded by the new Standard.
The British Standards Institute[ii], UK Government representatives and industry stakeholders were active members in the CENELEC and UK mirror working groups drafting this European Norm (EN) document. Stakeholders included manufacturers and manufacturing groups, environmental organisations and industry, engineering, and technical experts.
What is the outcome of the preparing for re-use process?
The re-use of discarded electrical and electronic equipment enables the return of whole appliances and parts to be tested, checked, and documented through a preparing for re-use process. The key outcome being that whole appliances and individual parts are no longer classified as WEEE but can be placed back on to the marketplace as “Re-use Electrical and Electronic Equipment” (REEE) and “REEE components”.
What are the benefits to users and a re-use organisation?
Having a good procedure in place that meets the criteria within the EN Standard, that is either independently verified or that a re-use operator can self-certify, is good for consumers and business users as it demonstrates that high preparation for re-use treatment processes are in place. This facilitates an improvement in customer confidence, retention, and acquisition policies.
The principles in the EN Standard are suitable for both small and large re-use operators, be these either social organisations, charities, or large-scale commercial businesses. The layout of the Standard provides for the development of a management system or a X model, for re-use operators to use to demonstrate the steps adopted when receiving WEEE that may be suitable for re-use. This should start with the visual inspection (for signs of damage etc.) and checks that the products are not on any recall lists. Safety tests that go beyond a simple portable appliance test, functionality tests (does it still do what it was designed to do when first sold into the market?), quality checks and tracking and traceability procedures are also required. It also requires that the re-use operator provides user manuals (paper or electronic) and a minimum 90-day warranty.
Other benefits include:
- Better internal management and records.
- Less wastage.
- Supports quality, environmental, and circular economy objectives.
- Provides support to management aims to increase efficiency, productivity, and profit.
- Provides consistent outcomes that are measured, monitored, and verified.
- Is an internationally recognised standard.
The growing international trade in second-hand electronic goods in developing countries can also benefit.
Exporters often disguise illegal exports of WEEE by calling the products ‘used EEE for re-use’ on shipping documents (when waste shipping rules do not apply), when there is little, if any, possibility of any re-use activity. It is more likely to be a front for poor-quality WEEE dismantling activities at overseas sites with little environmental protections, or considerations for the health and safety of their workers. The international ‘Correspondents Guidelines’ agreed following the Basel Convention (1989) called for a “test” to differentiate between re-use and the illegal exports of waste, this is set out in Annex VI of the WEEE Directive 2012 that gives the minimum requirements exporters should establish to prove that a shipment of EEE (genuine second-hand goods or REEE) is not WEEE.
EN 50614 sets out the tests to fill the evidence gap and is being used across Europe to focus efforts on blocking illegal exports of WEEE under the guise of being sent abroad for re-use. Records from competent re-use operators provide assurance that appropriate testing has taken place and provide proof that products are genuinely intended for re-use.
How do I get a copy of EN 50614:2020 and find out more information?
[i] CENELEC – https://www.cenelec.eu/
[ii] BSI – https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/standards/