Whoever sells it must also take it back! – This also applies to supermarkets in Germany from July 2022. Electronic waste such as disused electric toothbrushes, toasters and computers can now also be returned to such shops in Germany!
Electronic waste disposal in Germany: In order to increase the quantity of recycled electronics, the German government is expanding the existing take-back obligations for retailers of electrical appliances to discounters, supermarkets and other food retailers with the amendment to the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act. Here is an overview of questions and answers of who can dispose of which devices where – and why you should do so:
Collection points for electronic waste in Germany
Supermarkets must set up a recognizable collection point after having a transitional period that ended on June 30, 2022.
The prerequisite is:
- The supermarket has a total sales area of at least 800 square meters
- They themselves offer electrical appliances several times a year permanently. The regular sale of lamps (eg LEDs) is sufficient for this.
▶︎ Up to three old electronic devices with an edge length of up to 25 cm (centimeters) should also be able to be handed in there. This rule applies regardless of the new purchase of an item and also for products that were not previously purchased from this store or the same chain.
▶︎ Anything larger than 25 cm can only be handed over to a food retailer if a comparable product is bought there, for example as part of a campaign.
German supermarkets will start displaying a uniform logo to make is easier for people to identify collection points.
How do you get rid of the old washing machine or the broken dishwasher? I just bought a new one!
▶︎ Broken and discarded devices can usually be handed in free of charge at the municipal recycling center. In various municipalities there is also the offer to have electrical appliances picked up from the property or from the apartment. According to the Association of Municipal Companies (VKU), this is subject to a fee.
▶︎ You can also return electronic devices to the store if it is a large retailer. The advantage of returning the device via a retailer: If you buy a device there and have it delivered to your home, you often have the option of giving the old model directly with you. Travel routes and your own towing are no longer necessary. Specialist dealers in the field of electrical appliances are already obliged to take them back if they have a sales area of more than 400 square meters
Can I just return all old appliances to the supermarket in Germany?
▶︎ The supermarket only has to accept large appliances such as washing machines, microwaves and televisions, lawn mowers and large lamps free of charge if a corresponding new appliance of the same type is purchased.
In most cases, the return is not tied to a new purchase. For smaller devices up to 25 centimeters in size, such as a cell phone, electric toothbrush or similar, shops must accept the broken parts without buying a new part in exchange, nor does the device have to have been purchased from the same shop.
The shop is obliged to accept up to three old devices per type of device free of charge. According to the German Environmental Aid, a violation of this obligation to take back can result in a fine of up to 100,000 euros.
What about online trading?
Here, too, there will be an improvement for buyers from July 1, 2022: Even small online retailers will then have to offer free collection and disposal for every purchase of new devices. According to the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice center (VZ NRW), the law even provides for dealers to actively point out this possibility.
The take-back obligation already applies to large online retailers of electrical appliances with a shipping and storage area of more than 400 square meters. The buyers can either send in the old devices in a package or give them to a local collection point named by the online retailer. Or you can exchange the old device for the new model directly upon delivery.
The information on how an online retailer handles the return is often quite hidden. But according to the AER Foundation, the company must ensure that there is a return option for customers throughout Germany and within a reasonable distance.
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