Commission ‘passive’ on waste, Ecodesign enforcement

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The European Commission needs to take the implementation of recycling and Ecodesign laws more seriously, said green campaigner and waste policy expert Stéphane Arditi.

The European Commission does not play the role of a guardian of the treaty and does not dare act as a counterbalance to the member states, said Arditi, a waste and product policy expert at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) in Brussels.

The Commission should be more assertive and evaluate if national waste management plans are compliant with EU legislation, he said in an interview with EURACTIV.

"We are now one year after the transposition deadline [of the EU Waste Framework Directive] and these notification formats are not made available to the civil society, to the citizens and even to the decision-makers," Arditi said.

Designing products to consume less energy

Arditi is a fervent promoter of policies that seek to reduce waste at the design phase by making them easier to recycle.

At the EEB, he coordinates the Coolproducts campaign to promote consumer goods that use less energy.

Environmental activists had hoped that 2012 would be the year when the European Commission's Ecodesign Directive would finally kick into action, saving EU consumers billions of euros in energy bills by setting mandatory standards for appliances, office equipment, motors and lighting.

But in practice, one product was approved in 2008, seven in 2009, and three in 2010.

Environmental NGOs point to a study released in 2010 by the Ökopol Institute, which tested how cost-effective it is to purchase energy-efficient products. The results of the Danish study showed that while energy-efficient products can sometimes be more expensive to purchase, additional expense is ultimately more than recouped through lower energy bills.

No monitoring

The Coolproducts coalition believes there has been a lack of monitoring and enforcement of waste and product policy because the market for eco-design is fundamentally flawed.

In March, EURACTIV revealed that the directive had been struggling to gain traction due to an understaffed European Commission.

Arditi agreed that the Commission has been "too passive" and said he hoped the autumn review of the legislation would help uplift the market.  

"I'm really happy that the Commission tries now to really take this implementation of environmental policy seriously," Arditi said. "But it's going too slow compared to the potential."

He's advocating a more transparent control system with different experts who could help member states implement the legislation. Arditi hoped this system would put pressure on national governments to tackle the issue properly and would replace the current inefficient letter-notification system. 

This autumn, the Commission has a chance to change this inertia by coming up with a policy framework that would change the short-term thinking of member states and would make them understand the Ecodesign Directive is good for the Union as a whole, Arditi said.

"I think it is important to have this sanctioning mechanism or else we will not provide this kind of stick for the member states," he said.

To read the full interview, click here

The European Union's Ecodesign Directive introduces a framework to set mandatory ecological requirements for energy-using and energy-related products sold in the 27 member states.

Currently the scope covers more than 40 product groups, including boilers, lightbulbs and fridges that are responsible for 40% of the EU greenhouse gas emissions.

The aim of the directive is that manufactures of the energy-using products should, at the design stage, be obliged to reduce the energy consumption and other environmental impacts of products.

  • Sept. 2012: European Commission publishes evaluation and review of Ecodesign directive

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