Sprache: DE

What does the WEEE Act (ElektroG) Germany regulate?

The ElektroG in Germany

1. Introduction to ElektroG in Germany

1.1 Definition and Objective of ElektroG

The Electrical Law (ElektroG) of the Federal Republic of Germany, also known as the law on the placing on the market, return, and environmentally friendly disposal of electrical and electronic equipment, is a central set of rules that regulates the handling of electrical and electronic devices from their manufacture to disposal. It was established to reduce the proportion of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in waste disposal and to improve resource efficiency through reuse and recycling.

ElektroG pursues several objectives, including:

  • Minimizing the environmental impacts of WEEE, especially with regard to the hazardous substances contained therein.
     
  • Promoting the reuse and recycling of WEEE to reduce waste generation.
     
  • Ensuring a high level of protection for human health and the environment throughout the life cycle of WEEE.

1.2 Historical Context and Legal Basis

ElektroG was first enacted in March 2005 and has undergone several amendments and adjustments since then to adapt it to new technological and market-related developments. It implements various EU directives, in particular, the WEEE Directive (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), into national law, thereby establishing the legal framework for dealing with electrical and electronic equipment in Germany.
 

The WEEE Directive was enacted to minimize the negative environmental impacts of WEEE and to harmonize the collection, treatment, recycling, and disposal of WEEE across the EU. It sets minimum targets for the collection of WEEE and its treatment, reuse, and recycling and obliges member states to take appropriate measures to achieve these targets.
 

ElektroG sets specific requirements and obligations for manufacturers, importers, distributors, and consumers of electrical and electronic equipment in Germany. Among other things, it regulates the registration of manufacturers, the labeling of devices, the provision of information, the collection and disposal of old devices, and reporting and monitoring.

2. Who is affected by ElektroG?

2.1 Manufacturers, Importers, Dealers: Who is considered a "manufacturer" in the sense of the law?

ElektroG defines “manufacturers” as any natural or legal person who first offers electrical or electronic devices under their name or trademark on the German market. This also includes people who import or manufacture electrical or electronic devices from third countries. Thus, not only producers but also importers and dealers who sell products under their own name are affected by the regulations of ElektroG.

2.2 Affected Products: What types of electrical and electronic devices are affected?

ElektroG refers to a wide range of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) that is operated by electrical current or electromagnetic fields. This includes both household appliances and IT and telecommunications equipment, consumer electronics, electrical and electronic tools, toys, sports equipment, medical devices, monitoring and control instruments, vending machines, as well as lighting and light bulbs.

It is important to note that ElektroG also includes photovoltaic modules and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). However, certain products, such as permanently installed components of machines or vehicles, are exempt from the regulations of ElektroG.

The affected products are divided into six categories, according to the latest edition of ElektroG:

  • Heat exchangers
  • Screen devices
  • Lamps
  • Large devices
  • Small devices
  • Small IT and telecommunications devices

Each of these categories has specific requirements and regulations that are detailed in ElektroG.

3. Obligations under ElektroG

3.1 Registration as company and Registration of Products

According to ElektroG, manufacturers who offer electrical and electronic devices on the German market must register with the responsible authority, the so-called Electrical Register (stiftung ear), before placing the products on the market. Registration includes, among other things, providing company information and details about the affected product categories. It should be noted that separate registration is required for each brand and each product category. Non-registration can lead to sales bans and fines.

3.2  Reporting of marketed, taken back, and recycled quantities

Manufacturers are obliged to regularly report data on the quantities of electrical and electronic devices they have placed on the market, taken back, and recycled. These reports must contain certain information, including the quantity of devices placed on the market, the quantity of old devices taken back, and the quantity of devices reused and disposed of. The data must be transmitted to the Electrical Register at certain intervals and in a prescribed format.

3.3 Provision of a disposal concept

Manufacturers must ensure that they have a concept for the proper disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment. This includes setting up and maintaining systems for taking back old devices from private households and from the commercial sector. In addition, manufacturers must ensure that the collected old devices are properly treated, recycled, or disposed of to minimize environmental impact and maximize the reuse of materials.

4. Authorized Representative

4.1 Definition and Tasks of an Authorized Representative

An authorized representative is a natural or legal person based in Germany, who has been authorized in writing by a manufacturer not based in Germany, to assume certain duties and responsibilities under the ElektroG on their behalf. This is particularly relevant for manufacturers who do not have their headquarters in Germany but wish to offer their products on the German market.
 

The main tasks and responsibilities of an authorized representative under the ElektroG include:

  • Registering with the Electrical Register on behalf of the manufacturer.
  • Ensuring product compliance with the requirements of the ElektroG.
  • Reporting the quantities placed on the market, taken back, and recycled on behalf of the manufacturer.
  • Providing information and documentation upon request from the competent authorities.
  • Ensuring proper disposal of old devices.

4.2 When is an Authorized Representative Necessary?

An authorized representative is particularly necessary when a manufacturer of electrical and electronic equipment, who wants to offer their products on the German market, is not based in Germany. The ElektroG stipulates that manufacturers not based in Germany must designate an authorized representative to ensure that they can fulfill all duties and responsibilities under the ElektroG without being physically present in Germany.
 

It should be noted that the authorized representative must be based in Germany and that they must be authorized in writing by the manufacturer to act on their behalf. The authorization must encompass all relevant tasks and duties that the authorized representative is to assume under the ElektroG.

5. Differentiation of Product Categories

5.1 Household Products, Dual-Use, and Professional Products

The ElektroG categorizes electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) based on their intended use and target group. This distinction is crucial to understand the specific requirements and obligations that apply to manufacturers, importers, and distributors regarding different types of products.

  • Household Products
    These are intended for use in private households. They must comply with the requirements of the ElektroG regarding registration, reporting, and disposal. Examples include household appliances, consumer electronics, and IT devices.
     
  • Dual-Use Products
    These are products that can be used both in private households and in commercial, industrial, or other professional environments. Dual-use products are subject to the same requirements as household products under the ElektroG.
     
  • Professional Products
    These are intended exclusively for use in commercial or industrial environments. While they are subject to certain requirements of the ElektroG, they may be exempt from some specific regulations, especially regarding product disposal.

5.2 Specific Requirements and Differences in Handling These Categories

  • Registration and Reporting
    All three product categories require manufacturers, importers, and distributors to register and regularly report on the quantities placed on the market, taken back, and disposed of.
     
  • Disposal and Recycling
    Household and dual-use products must be disposed of via public collection points, and manufacturers are obliged to take back these products for disposal and recycling. For professional products, special take-back and disposal agreements can be made between manufacturers and end-users.
     
  • Labeling
    All EEE must be labeled with the crossed-out wheelie bin symbol to indicate to the end-user that the product must not be disposed of with household waste. Additional labeling requirements may vary depending on the product category.
     
  • User Information
    Manufacturers must inform users about the proper disposal options for old devices and the meaning of the crossed-out wheelie bin symbol.

6. Labeling Obligations and Information Requirements

6.1 Labeling of Electrical and Electronic Devices

The ElektroG establishes certain labeling requirements for electrical and electronic devices to ensure that they can be properly identified and disposed of.

  • Crossed-Out Wheelie Bin
    All electrical and electronic devices must be marked with the symbol of the crossed-out wheelie bin. This symbol signals that the device must not be disposed of as unsorted municipal waste at the end of its life and must be collected separately.
     
ElektroG: Crossed-Out Wheelie Bin
  • Manufacturer Identification
    Each device must be clearly and permanently marked with the name or registered trademark of the manufacturer and a unique product identifier (e.g., model or type number).
     
  • Date of Placement on the Market
    For professional devices, the date of placement on the market must also be indicated to mark the beginning of the statutory minimum guarantee period for the availability of spare parts.

6.2 Information Obligations to End-Users

Manufacturers, distributors, and importers are obliged to inform end-users of electrical and electronic devices about the following aspects:

  • Disposal of Old Devices
     Users must be informed that waste electrical equipment must be disposed of separately from unsorted municipal waste and that disposal is carried out via municipal collection points.
     
  • Meaning of the Crossed-Out Wheelie Bin
    The meaning of the crossed-out wheelie bin symbol must be clearly explained to raise awareness of the need for separate disposal.
     
  • Return Options
    Information about the options for returning old devices, especially as part of the 1:1 take-back when purchasing a new, similar device, must be provided.
     
  • Hazardous Substances in EEE
    Users should also be informed about potentially hazardous substances in electrical and electronic devices and the importance of proper disposal to avoid environmental impacts.
     
  • Opportunities for Reuse
    Information about opportunities for reusing old devices and donating functional devices should also be provided.
     
  • Provide WEEE number
    In accordance with § 6 of the WEEE Act, every manufacturer is obligated to indicate their WEEE registration number when offering products and on invoices.

7. Take-back and Disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

7.1 Take-back Obligations for Manufacturers and Retailers

The ElektroG sets clear guidelines for the take-back and disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment to ensure that they are treated, reused, and recycled in an environmentally friendly manner.

 

  • 1:1 Take-back
    When selling a new electrical or electronic device, retailers who offer electrical appliances on a sales area of at least 400 square meters are obliged to take back a similar old device from the end-user free of charge. This also applies to online retailers with a corresponding storage and shipping area.
     
  • 0:1 Take-back
    Retailers with a sales or storage and shipping area of at least 400 square meters must also take back small old devices (no external dimensions larger than 25 cm) free of charge without the purchase of a new device.
     
  • Take-back Systems
    Manufacturers must participate in one or more take-back systems to ensure that the devices they put on the market are properly disposed of at the end of their life cycle.

7.2 Disposal and Recycling of Old Devices

  • Separate Collection
    Waste electrical and electronic equipment must be collected separately from other waste to enable efficient recycling and disposal.
     
  • Treatment and Recycling
    Old devices must be treated, recycled, and disposed of in accordance with applicable environmental standards. This includes the removal of hazardous components and substances and maximizing the recovery of materials and resources.
     
  • Proof of Compliance
    Manufacturers must prove that they meet their take-back and recycling quotas by regularly submitting reports on the quantities of old devices taken back and recycled.

7.3 Environmentally Friendly Disposal

  • Avoidance of Environmental Impact
    Proper disposal and recycling of old devices aim to minimize negative environmental impacts and maximize resource efficiency.
     
  • Manufacturer's Responsibility
    Manufacturers bear the responsibility for the environmentally friendly disposal of the electrical and electronic devices they put on the market and must ensure that they comply with legal requirements.

8. Sanctions and Fines

8.1 Violations of the ElektroG

The ElektroG contains a set of regulations intended to ensure that electrical and electronic devices are produced, placed on the market, taken back, and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. Violations of these regulations can lead to significant sanctions and fines.
 

  • Non-registration
    Placing electrical and electronic devices on the market without prior registration with the Stiftung Elektro-Altgeräte Register (stiftung ear) is prohibited and can be fined.
     
  • False Reports
    Incomplete or incorrect reports of the quantities of electrical and electronic devices placed on the market, taken back, and recycled can also be sanctioned.
     
  • Non-compliance with Take-back Obligations
    Manufacturers and retailers who do not fulfill their obligations to take back old devices can also be fined.

8.2 Amount of Fines

The amount of fines can vary depending on the type of violation and the size of the affected company. Fines can amount to several hundred thousand euros, especially if the violation of the ElektroG causes significant environmental damage or dangers to human health.

8.3 Legal Consequences

In addition to financial sanctions, violations of the ElektroG can also have legal consequences, such as sales bans for certain products or the obligation to remedy defects. In some cases, there can also be personal liability of the management.

8.4 Prevention and Compliance

To avoid sanctions and fines, it is crucial that companies ensure that their products and business practices fully comply with the requirements of the ElektroG. This can be achieved through regular checks, audits, and training, as well as the implementation of compliance management systems.

9. Changes and Updates to the ElektroG

9.1 Adaptation to Market and Technology Developments

The ElektroG is designed to be adaptable to the constantly changing conditions of the market and technology. This includes changes regarding product categories, registration and reporting obligations, take-back and disposal procedures, and other relevant aspects of the law.

9.2 Changes in Product Categories

As mentioned in a previous section, the product categories defined in the ElektroG can be updated to include new types of electrical and electronic devices or to modify existing categories. This may be necessary due to technological developments, changes in product offerings, or other relevant factors.

9.3 Adaptation to EU Directives

The ElektroG is also aimed at implementing the requirements of the WEEE Directive (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive) of the European Union. Changes or updates to the WEEE Directive can therefore also result in changes to the ElektroG to ensure conformity with EU requirements.

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