Vehicle Take Back Laws

In predicting the future of legal mandates for the recycling of computers, it is instructive to look at the recent history of recycling laws in Japan and the EU (the U.S. has no such laws) that apply to motor vehicles. As vehicles are much larger than computer-related waste and because they contain a greater amount of material, it is only natural that lawmakers focused their attention on the recycling of vehicles as landfills began to fill up.

In Japan, the End-of Life Vehicle (ELV) Recycling Law became effective on January 1, 2005. This law puts the cost of recycling on the vehicle owner. A fee is collected when the vehicle is sold or when it goes through its first required inspection after the law was passed. The collected fees are managed by a not-for-profit organization, which works with manufacturers to ensure that the vehicles are recycled properly. Each manufacturer is required to set up a receiving process to take back its vehicles and is responsible for their proper recycling and disposal. Any surplus fees collected because of exportation of a used vehicle supports local governments in their fight against illegal dumping. The law also establishes a goal to reduce the percentage of a vehicle being landfilled to 30% or less by 2015. It also focuses on the collection and proper disposal of CFCs and the explosives in airbags.

In the EU, Parliament issued a directive in 2007 to harmonize existing national regulations on vehicle recycling. The goal of the directive is to reuse or recycle 95% of each vehicle, with only 5% going to landfill by 2015. Members of the EU are to encourage the reuse of vehicle components and to recycle those parts that cannot be reused. While in Japan user fees fund the recycling effort, in the EU the manufacturers bear all or a significant portion of the costs for the disposal of their vehicles at end of life. Both Japan and the EU avoid having the final user of the vehicle bear the cost of recycling ELVs in order to not encourage illegal dumping of vehicles.


In 1995, the EU issued Regulation 1836/93 establishing the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) as a voluntary tool for industrial organizations to document their environmental performance. Its aim is to recognize organizations that go beyond the minimum legal requirements. It works much like becoming ISO 9000 compliant in that the organization's environmental performance is independently verified by an outside organization. Starting in 2001, the EMAS was made available to all organizations both public and private.

To receive EMAS registration, an organization must perform the following activities:

1. Conduct an environmental review of all the products, activities, methods, procedures, and so on performed by the organization.

2. Create an environmental management system that ensures that the organization is meeting the objectives defined by its environmental policy. The system should specify the responsibilities, processes, procedures, communications, and so on required to meet the objectives.

3. Perform an environmental audit of the management system performed and approved by an accredited EMAS verifier.

4. Provide a statement of the organization's environmental performance documenting how well it met its environmental objectives. The statement should also outline steps the organization will take to continue to improve its environmental performance.

5. Send all of the above to the EMAS Competent Body for registration and for public review.

Once all of the above steps are completed, the organization receives a registration number and is permitted to use the EMAS logo. The logo can be used on:

▲ Material advertising the organization's participation in EMAS.

▲ The organization's letterhead and other marketing collateral.

▲ Advertising for the organization's products and services.

▲ Environmental statements made by the organization.


In July 2006, the EU passed the Directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment, commonly referred to as the Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS). The directive bans the sale in the EU of new electrical and electronic equipment containing more than specified levels of six hazardous materials: lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants. It is closely linked with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) (see below), which sets recycling targets for electrical and electronic products.

RoHS defines a manufacturer as any of the following:

▲ Any entity that manufactures electronic equipment that it sells directly to the consumer or through retailers using its own brand.

▲ Any entity that resells under its own brand equipment produced by separate suppliers, regardless of where the product was manufactured.

▲ Any entity that imports or exports electronic equipment commercially into, or from the EU.

Many computer manufacturers, such as Dell and IBM, have standardized the design of computers sold worldwide to meet the RoHS directive.


Sony experienced first-hand how serious European countries are about regulations on the use of toxic materials in electronic products. In December 2001, the Dutch government seized over €100 million of Playstation game consoles, when it was discovered that the cables that came with the consoles contained more cadmium than Dutch law allowed.

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