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Taking Out the Eurotrash

Even with the best of intentions, complying with European e-waste directives is not easy

3 min read

24 November 2004�People are calling it a data-gathering nightmare. In 2003 the European Commission, the European Union�s executive arm in Brussels, Belgium, adopted a pair of directives aimed at sparing landfills the estimated 12 to 20 kilograms of electronic waste that every European generates each year. The first of the two directives, called WEEE (Waste [from] Electrical and Electronic Equipment), requires producers to take back and recycle, at no cost to consumers, nearly anything that uses a battery or an electric cord�for example, computers and smoke detectors.

Acknowledging that some electronic waste is going to end up in the landfills anyway, where it could pose a danger to human health and to the environment, a second directive known as RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) does just what it says: it restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. Starting on 1 July 2006, with few exceptions, new equipment entering the European market will have to comply with maximum permissible levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium, as well as with two flame retardants commonly used in molded plastics.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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