A European Commission proposal to introduce binding lists of electronic products for recycling would limit EU legislators’ ability to follow market developments in this highly innovative sector, EU environment ministers said yesterday (21 October).
Meeting in Luxembourg, environment ministers debated the proposed recast of directives on waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances (RoHS). Both directives concern electrical and electronic equipment.
Member states oppose harmonised product lists
A majority of national delegations opposed the idea of harmonising the scope of the two directives and would rather have separate texts with different objectives and legal bases.
They agrue that harmonising the scope of the WEEE Directive would actually limit its scope. Currently based on Article 175 of the EU Treaties, which deals with the environment, the WEEE Directive provides an indicative list of product categories and allows member states to widen the list of products concerned.
“Shifting its scope to RoHS under Article 95, which requires full harmonisation, would make the list binding and require frequent cumbersome comitology procedures to update it, as new products are being invented and brought to the market,” a diplomat explained.
However, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas disagrees, stressing that harmonising the scope of the directives across the EU would improve their implementation and provide business with increaseed legal certainty.
Swedish EU Presidency compromise proposal
As a compromise, the Swedish EU Presidency is proposing separate scopes for WEEE and RoHS.
Its proposal puts the WEEE annexes back to their current location and suggests an open scope for RoHS instead. This would allow member states to apply RoHS to more products than currently required. With such an open scope, all electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is included unless it is explicitly excluded.
While the idea of an open scope for RoHS got broad support from member states, some delegations pointed out that the costs of this option for producers were unclear and would need to be subjected to an impact assessment.
Council hopes for Parliament support
Given the conflicting vieww, it seems that the institutional debate on recasting the WEEE and RoHS directives is only just beginning.
“There are no major divergences between the member states,” a diplomat said, stressing that the main disagreement at this point was between the Council and the Commission. “We just hope that the Parliament will now line up with our viewpoint,” the member state representative said.