The recycling standard for electrical and electronic equipment is being updated

At European level, recycling is standardised by the EN 50625 series of standards. Various countries and organisations declare these standards to be the basis for recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment. In their contracts with recyclers, SENS and Swico require recyclers to work in accordance with this series of standards. The standard with the general recycling requirements came into force in 2014. Ten years later, it will be the first to be adapted to technical and legal developments. The revision of the other standards and technical regulations in the series is also scheduled to begin this year.

A European effort

The EN 50625 series of standards is a European joint effort. Experts from many European countries regularly meet in a working group to discuss how the EN 50625 standards should be further developed. The working group is open to all economic players in electrical and electronic equipment recycling. Delegates from take-back systems, representatives from appliance manufacturers and experts from electrical and electronic equipment recyclers collaborate in the working group.

With transnational organisation

CENELEC is responsible for the standards in the EN 50625 series. It is the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization. CENELEC is supported by 34 country organisations for electrotechnical standardisation. The Swiss experts are organised in the ‘Swiss Electrotechnical Committee’ (CES). The CES office is run by Electrosuisse. CES is home to the Swiss Technical Committee 111. Members of this Technical Committee 111 can work in the European TC 111 of the same name. Work on the standards in the EN 50625 series is carried out in Working Group 6 of TC 111, making it a committee with experts from all over Europe.

Figure 1: The standardisation work is organised at country level. The national experts work together at European level.

Standards should be adapted to the evolving environment

The documents in the 50625 series are up to ten years old. The main standard (EN 50625-1) was published in 2014. The associated technical specifications TS 50625-3-1 were published between 2015 and 2017. Both now need to be checked and content that is no longer up to date should be updated. CENELEC Working Group 6 would like to limit the revision to replacing references to other standards or laws that are no longer valid. In addition, thresholds should be updated, particularly in the field of plastic recycling. The EU’s POPs Directive has led to more stringent requirements in this field since the standard was published. Specifications should be adjusted where necessary due to technical developments since 2014.

The other standards in the series, which deal with special processing methods for lamps, flat screens, refrigerators and photovoltaic units, should also be revised. However, the planning for this remains less advanced than for the main standard.

The working group is striving to keep the standard as stable as possible. However, with such a large committee consisting of different players, it is naturally difficult to predict where this journey will go.

Swiss take-back systems are actively involved in the revision

The requirements that the SENS and Swico Swiss take-back systems place on recyclers are based on the EN 50625 standards. They are integrated into the recycler contracts of both take-back systems. So the development of the standards has a direct impact on the requirements for recycling electrical and electronic equipment in Switzerland. Experts from the SENS and Swico Technical Committees are actively involved in the discussions in Working Group 6, have already submitted amendment suggestions, and will actively work on drafting the new standards. In spring 2024, Working Group 6 intends to bring a proposal for a work package to adapt the standard to a vote. The experts from SENS and Swico will recommend this proposal for approval by the Swiss Committee.

An outlook for the new standard and further developments

Working Group 6 intends to bring the revised EN 50625-1 standard to the vote in 2025. However, whether this target can be met remains to be seen. There is still no date in the schedule for the remaining standards in the series as of February 2024.

The European Union has been discussing amending the WEEE Directive for a long time. Studies on possible amendments have already been published and consultations have been carried out with the affected stakeholders. If a new WEEE Directive or a successor regulation were to come into force, this would impact the EN 50625 standards. When this might happen remains entirely unclear. A new WEEE Directive would likely also kick off a further revision of EN 50625.