Ministers for Environment agree on electroscrap legislation

EU environment ministers manage to reach common position on WEEE and ROHS directives

The most controversial issue in this debate was the demand to combine the two directives into one text based on the same legal basis (environmental instead of internal market). Four delegations (UK, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands) were opposed to merging the two directives. The Council decided to stick to two separate directives, but allowed Sweden and Denmark to maintain their stricter national measures.

Other elements of the Council’s common position:
– on the WEEE Directive:

  • Governments should try to reach a non-binding collection target of 4 kg per inhabitant per year – to be reached within 36 months from the entry into force of the Directive(Parliament wanted 6 kg).
  • Producers can choose to pay individually for recycling or share costs with others (Parliament urged mandatory individual responsibility for producers).
  • System for collection of WEEE and financing to be set up within 30 months of entry into force of the directive. Exemption from financing requirements for small independent manufacturers with fewer than 10 employees and a turnover of less than 2 million euro for a transitional period of 5 years.
  • strong targets for reusing and recycling to be reached within 46 months (50-75 percent instead of 60-85 as proposed by the Parliament). Ireland and Greece get two more years to comply because of their “recycling infrastructure deficit”.

– On the ROHS Directive:

  • Ban on dangerous substances to come into force in 2007 (Parliament wanted 2006 – Commission 2008).

 

Parliament rapporteurKarl-Heinz Florenz(EPP/ED Group) welcomed the fact that the Environment Council maintained two separate directives but criticised that ministers reduced the minimum volume per head to be collected to 4 kg instead of 6. He also attacked the non-binding nature of Member States' obligations to collect electrowaste.

TheGerman electrical and electronic manufacturers' association (ZVEI)expressed its dissatisfaction over the Council's common position. The industry association said the proposed legislation would cost the European electrical and electronic industry billions of euro.

TheEuropean Association of Consumer Electronics Manufacturers (EACEM)was even more critical. "To manufacturers of consumer electronics equipment, the Council's decision is highly disappointing and unfair because it will oblige responsible producers to pay for cleaning up the waste of free-riders and competitors that have gone out of business", it said in a press release issued on Friday.

Swedish manufa cturerElectrolux, who supported the concept of individual producer responsibility, said in a statement that it is "highly concerned by the decision of the Council to make existing companies finance the recycling of products produced by companies that disappear or where the manufacturer of the product can no longer be identified."

 

EU environment ministers managed to reach a common position on the WEEE and ROHS directives on 7 June. The Council watered down some of the tough proposals that the European Parliament had brought forward in its first reading on 15 May (seeEURACTIV 17 May).

 

The draft directive on waste 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. Under this new legislation, consumers will have the possibility to return used electrical and electronic equipment (computers, televisions, fridges, washing machines, etc.) to producers for disposal free of charge. The new legislation also aims to stimulate manufacturers to introduce more environmentally-friendly designs for their products.

One of the main elements of the WEEE directive is the intention to increase the collection and recycling of electroscrap through producer responsibility. The ROHS directive imposes a ban on the use of toxic substances like lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and flame retardants PBB and PBDE in new electroproducts.

 

The Parliament is expected to undertake its second reading of these proposals in October. With such differences of opinion between the Parliament and the Member States, the chances are that the proposals will prompt conciliation talks between both institutions. The two directives should come into effect in 2004.

 

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