Refund system for electronic waste proposed

Governing coalition members the Radikale press for EU-wide cash refund system for “urban mining” of old electronics

Some day in the near future you may be able to feed your used mobile phone or broken iPod into a machine at the supermarket and walk away with a fresh 50 kroner bill in your pocket in exchange.

The Radikale, a member of the governing coalition, are proposing a cash deposit system for used small electronics, like the one that currently exists for beverage containers, reports Politiken newspaper.


“We know that there’s a very high collection rate on bottles and aluminium cans because of deposit schemes. Our idea is therefore to get machines that collect mobile phones and other small electronics,” said Radikale environmental spokesperson Lone Loklindt.


She and her party are working to have such an electronics deposit and collection system introduced at the EU level.


The proposal is aimed not only at reducing the amount of carcinogenic rubbish that makes its way back into the eco-system. It would also be a means to collect and reuse valuable raw materials like tungsten, niobium, magnesium and cobalt – all components of small electronics that frequently end up in an incinerator or a landfill.


“There’s a lot of value in this rubbish. We don’t need to dig more mines to extract these raw materials. We could use the electronics that we’re dropping in the rubbish bin and incinerator today,” explained Loklindt.


“It’s called ‘urban mining’,” she added.


Radikale leader Margrethe Vestager was meeting with EU leaders in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss environmental and natural resource strategies for the 27 EU countries. The electronics deposit system was one of the topics on the table.


MPs from the left-of-centre parties Socialistisk Folkeparti and Enhedslisten expressed interest in the proposal.


“It sounds good to me,” said Enhedslisten’s Per Clausen. “But perhaps it’s a little utopian to think we can agree to a standard EU deposit system for electronic rubbish, when we haven’t even been able to agree about a common deposit system for bottles and other things.”


In Denmark today few small electronics get recycled, according to Kenneth Mathiesen, a recycling supervisor at the Vermlandsgade recycling centre in Copenhagen.


“If a person is standing in the kitchen at home and their old mobile phone or iPod suddenly stops working, I think it generally goes right into the rubbish bin – unfortunately,” Mathiesen said.