Parliament strengthens producer responsibility for electronic waste

On 10 April 2002, the European Parliament adopted its opinion on the draft directives on electronic waste and hazardous substances. Contrary to the Council’s recommendation, the MEPs voted for individual producer responsibility and raised the compulsory collection targets.

In its vote on 10 April, the European Parliament confirmed its position from the first reading that each producer individually has to finance the recycling or safe disposal of WEEE. The Council had recommended collective responsibility for the producers. The Parliament’s amendment still allows for Members States that already have collective recycling systems to keep them for a maximum of 10 years.

The Parliament’s opinion differs from the Council’s also on the following points:

  • the collection rate target of WEEE should be raised to 6 kilograms per capita, to be achieved by 31 December 2005 (the Council suggested 4 kilograms in 36 months);
  • producers must provide financial guarantees for future disposal, to avoid irresponsible “free-rider” behaviour;
  • for historical waste, the Parliament suggests that for products put on the market before the legislation enters into force, the producers should share the costs according to market share by type of equipment;
  • small producers (turnover of less than 2m euros and fewer than 10 employees) should not be excluded from the directive, as suggested by the Council;
  • the recovery rate of large household appliances should be raised to 90% (the Council suggested 80%)

With respect to the ROHS directive, the Parliament voted for the ban of all substances to come into force on 1 January 2006.

 

The electronic companyElectroluxandEuropean Domestic Appliance Manufacturers(CECED) stated in press releases that they welcomed the outcome of the Parliament's vote and that they call on the Council as well to accept individual producer responsibility. Alsoenvironmental NGOsandconsumer organisationshave said they were in favour of individual producer responsibility. TheEuropean Environmental Bureau(EEB) regretted however that the Parliament did not adopt stricter recycling targets.

The European organisation for SMEs,UEAPME, had asked MEPs not to delete the temporary exemption for small companies from the WEEE directive. UEPME stated that the initial costs associated with the recovery and treatment of WEEE will be too high for micro-businesses to support.

EnvironmentCommissioner Margot Wallströmwelcomed the Parliament's decision. She said: "With the European Parliament's vote, a decisive step towards adoption of EU rules to tackle the fastest growing waste stream in Europe has been taken. In particular, I support the strengthening of individual producer responsibility."

 

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 producers' responsibility to collect and recycle electronic scrap.

 

Considering the serious remaining differences between the Parliament and Council positions, the WEEE directive will inevitably go to conciliation. The main issues will be:

  • individual vs. collective responsibility, and the financing of historical and orphan waste
  • collection targets
  • derogation from the directive for SMEs
  • targets for recovery

 

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