EP and Council formally adopt tough new rules for electronic waste

On 18 December, the Parliament and the council gave their final approval on the draft directives on the electronic waste (WEEE) and on the use of hazardous substances in electrical equipment (ROHS).

On 18 December, the Parliament and the Council formally adopted the WEEE and ROHS directive after more than three years of debate between the EU institutions (and the stakeholders).

A key achievement for Parliament is the establishment of the principle that individual producers should be responsible for financing the waste treatment of their own products.

The report drafted by Karl-Heinz Florenz (EPP-Germany) on the compromise agreed by the Council and the Parliament, outlines the main points of the new legislation as follows:

  • Collection and recovery of waste equipment:The Member States have until 2005 to introduce take-back systems and collection facilities for all electrical and electronic equipment. Electrical and electronic equipment must not end up in unsorted municipal waste but must be collected separately. The compromise reached requires evidence to be provided of a binding collection rate of 4 kg per inhabitant a year by the end of 2006 at the latest.
  • Financing in respect of waste equipment from private households:Consumers can return waste equipment to the collection points free of charge. Producers will bear the costs involved in collection, recovery and disposal at least as from the collection facilities.
  • Labelling of equipment:Producers of electrical and electronic equipment are required to label their products clearly to allow easier identification and dating and to inform consumers that all waste equipment is to be collected separately.
  • Product design:The WEEE directive provides that dismantling and recovery should be facilitated at the production stage. Technical design features which prevent equipment from being reused are to be avoided.
  • Ban on hazardous substances:The compromise reached provides that the use of substances such as lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium in electrical equipment should be banned as from 1 July 2006. However, a series of exemptions from this general ban on substances is laid down in an annex to the directive.

     

Waste electrical and electronic equipment is the fastest growing part of the waste stream today. Each European produces on average around 14 kg per year of these wastes. Currently, 90% of this waste is landfilled or incinerated without any pre-treatment.

To face this growing waste, the Commission adopted a 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) 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.

On 11 October 2002, 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.

 

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

 

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