Obligation to take back: supermarkets must accept electronic waste

wthe next time you go shopping for carrots, milk or flour, in addition to your wallet, you can also pack the broken kettle, the discarded mobile phone or the toaster in which the slices continue to burn. Since Friday, large supermarkets, food discounters and drugstores have had to take back their old appliances. And for free, regardless of where they were purchased and even if the customer doesn’t want to buy new goods. This is the new regulation for shops with a total sales area of ​​at least 800 square meters. “Everyone will start taking back systems on July 1 and will make it as easy as possible for customers to return their old appliances,” assures Antje Gerstein, managing director for sustainability at the German Retail Association (HDE), the FAZ.

The association had long resisted the extension of the withdrawal obligation. “Overall, the additional burden is significant for many trading companies,” says Gerstein. “Often, especially in urban areas, there are still only small storage areas.” The legislator has taken these concerns into account by having to withdraw only small devices with a maximum length of 25 centimeters. Incidentally, this also includes electronic “flashing shoes” or lighted mirrors. It would have been better to set the limit at 50 centimeters, said Elke Salzmann, head of asset protection at the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (VZBV) on request. “It would be a relief for consumers, as they could also dispose of devices such as microwaves and vacuum cleaners.” but only if they buy a similar device.

The seller can also dispose of scrap

So far, the take-back obligation has only affected large electrical or electronic goods stores as well as hardware stores and online retailers with a corresponding assortment. But at just 11%, the trade’s contribution to the collection of discarded electronic devices was modest. Municipalities collect most of the electronic waste. Overall, however, far fewer old appliances are collected than necessary. At 44 percent, the share is well below the legal value of 65 percent. As most appliances are sold in grocery stores and pharmacies – often as special offers – environmental and consumer advocates agree that it is right to hold these companies accountable.

However, Thomas Fischer, head of the circular economy at Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), doubts that the markets are making the take-back obligation environmentally and consumer-friendly enough. A DUH survey of 13 of the largest supermarkets, discounters and drugstores raised concerns about significant deficits, Fischer said. In Aldi-Süd, for example, there is a return to the supermarket checkout. “Stressful situations are inevitable,” he predicts. Consumer advocate Salzmann of vzbv would like “retailers to actively provide information on return options”. Inconspicuous labels, like the ones you see on battery return boxes, weren’t enough.

HDE states that collection boxes are often set up or devices accepted at information desks. There are also extra containers for devices that are easily combustible if damaged, such as cell phones or other electronic devices with lithium-ion batteries. Fischer retorts that the DUH survey did not provide compelling concepts for tackling the older devices. “Although we know from experience that about 15% of discarded electronic devices still work or can be repaired, there are apparently no plans to collect them separately.” to collect electronic devices from drugstores or pharmacies. The environmentalists therefore want to check on the spot how the withdrawal is going. From next week on, the markets will have to prepare for the test visits.

Leave a Comment