The European Parliament and the 27 EU member states are set for difficult negotiations over the recast of the bloc’s electronic waste directive as MEPs insist on ambitious targets for collecting and recycling discarded fridges, phones and other e-waste than the member states can accept.
The European Parliament's Environment Committee voted yesterday on its second reading recommendation on the recast of the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, aiming at toughening existing rules on electrical and electronic equipment.
The report by German MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz (European People's Party) – adopted with 52 votes in favour, 1 against and 5 abstentions – confirms the House’s ambitious stand on e-waste set out at first reading earlier this year.
But some tough trialogue negotiations are foreseen between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers before a second reading takes place in January.
Targets at issue
In particular, the new targets for collecting electronic waste backed by the European Parliament are set to cause some trouble with reluctant EU member states.
Currently, a flat-rate annual target of 4kg per person is applied even though the EU executive estimates that each European currently generates 17-20 kg of e-waste per year.
The Commission has suggested a collection target of 65% of the average weight of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market over the two previous years but MEPs say targets should be based on actual e-waste generated, with 85% to be collected by 2016.
Meanwhile, the Council supports a 65% target based on goods going on sale, to be achieved eight years after the entry into force of the directive, presumably by 2020, with a further two years transition for some member states.
Depending on the waste category, MEPs also say that 70-85% of e-waste should be recovered and 50-75% recycled. They propose a separate 5% reuse target so that more functional goods get a new lease of life instead of being scrapped.
Retailers asked to take back small e-waste
Many smaller e-waste items, such as light bulbs, mobile phones and electronic toothbrushes are thrown away with other rubbish even though they contain harmful or valuable substances.
To tackle the problem, MEPs say consumers should be allowed to hand back very small appliances to all electronics retailers – except the smallest – for free, regardless of whether the customer buys a new product or not.
But the European small businesses association UEAPME said such obligation would be “excessive and disproportionate for the vast majority of small electronics retailers” who would risk being transformed into “dumping grounds without their consent”.
The lawmakers also want to broaden the reach of the EU's e-waste law by bringing all types of electrical and electronic equipment under the scope of the rules unless explicitly excluded, instead of applying the current restricted list of equipment concerned.
EU member states also believe that the scope should be widened but not until six years after the entry into force of the recast – or around 2018.
The Commission has not proposed an open scope, as no proper impact study on the implications for businesses and the environment of taking such a step has yet been conducted.
The Parliament report adopted yesterday also suggests forbidding any e-waste exports to countries outside the OECD and only allow export of non-functioning products within OECD countries if there is a guarantee that this product will be fixed and able to be re-used.