Conciliation compromise defines rules for electronic waste

On 11 October, the Conciliation Committee between the Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on the electronic waste directive (WEEE). The compromise accepted the parliament’s demand for individual producer responsibility.

Under the compromise agreed between the Council and the Parliament, producers will be held individually responsible for the waste arising from their new products. Other points of the compromise:

  • Member States need to set up collection systems for waste of electrical and electronic equipment, take measures so that WEEE is collected separately and achieve a binding target of 4 kg per capita/per year by the end of 2006 (Parliament wanted 6 kg);
  • producers must provide financial guarantees for future disposal, to avoid irresponsible “free-rider” behaviour;
  • producers will have the choice of either managing the waste on an individual basis or participating in collective schemes;
  • historical waste (put on the market before the directive comes into force) will be treated through collective financing; producers can get back the costs through a “visible fee” sales tax on new products for eight years (ten years for larger products);
  • four heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium) and the brominated flame retardants PBB and PBDE will be banned from 1 July 2006. Existing national measures on these substances can continue to apply until that date.

 

The Commission welcomed the compromise agreement.Environment Commissioner Margot Wallströmsaid: "I am particularly happy that we could convince Member States to strengthen the individual responsibility of producers for the waste from their products. This will be an important incentive to producers to take the environmental consequences into account already when they stand around the design table".

One of the major producers of these products,Electroluxalso approved of the Conciliation agreement. Head of Environmental Affairs, Henrik Sundström, stated: "There is now a real incentive for every manufacturer to create products of which more parts can be recycled more completely and at a lower cost," he said. "It's good for the environment, good for the consumer and good for business."

Orgalime, the umbrella group representing appliance manufacturers, welcomed the fact that the industry will now have only one set of rules to deal with. "Our industry can now concentrate on the next step – the setting up of the systems to deal with waste in those countries where they do not exist and the implementation of the directives into national legislation. Our main focus here will be to persuade national governments to adopt the same or at least very similar approaches throughout Europe", said Orgalime in a press statement.

TheEuropean Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized enterprises (UEAPME)on the other hand deplored the WEEE compromise stating that it will create additional financial and administrative burdens to small and medium enterprises in Europe.

TheEuropean Environmental Bureau (EEB)expressed its satisfaction that producers will be held responsible on an individual basis. EEB's Secretary General John Hontelez said: "Making companies consider the end of life implications of the design of their products at the time they place the products on the market in the future is a strong driver for eco-design in electrical and electronic equipment. We would like to congratulate the European Parliament’s team and the rapporteur Mr. Florenz in sticking to their guns on this issue. Now we call on the Member States to take full advantage of this opport unity to work towards the long-term goal of prevention of waste from EEE."

 

The proposal for a directive on the waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and its companion draft directive restricting the use of hazardous substances in electrical equipment (ROHS) were adopted by the Commission on 13 June 2000. One of the main elements of the WEEE directive is the increase of producers' responsibility to collect and recycle electronic scrap.

 

  • Parliament and Council now need to give their official approval of the Conciliation compromise.
  • The two directives are due to be transposed into national law by mid 2004.

 

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