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15th June 2018


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EU ministers back moderate ambitions on electronic waste

After the European Parliament last month called for an ambitious 85% e-waste collection target as from 2016, EU environment ministers this week backed European Commission proposals for a 65% quota and postponed its implementation by four years.


Meeting in Brussels on Monday, EU environment ministers reached a political agreement on the recast of an EU directive on Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), proposed by the Commission in 2008.

The EU executive's original proposal suggested, for 2016, a collection target of 65% of the average weight of e-waste placed on the market in the preceding year. But member states could not agree on the quota proposed for 2016 and the way to regulate possible exceptions.

Instead, they agreed on a Hungarian EU Presidency compromise proposal of allowing a transition period before the 65% quota becomes obligatory, reports EurActive. Instead of 65%, the collection target should be 45% for 2016 and the 65% target would only have to be achieved eight years after the entry into force of the recast, presumably by 2020. Several member states would be given a further two years due to "specific national circumstances."

Ministers backed the European Parliament's call to broaden the reach of EU 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. However, they agreed that the scope should not be widened until six years after the entry into force of the recast, meaning 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.

As for the registration of electronic equipment manufacturers, the Commission has proposed to establish a definition of producers at European level. It has also proposed to harmonise registration and reporting obligations for producers to allow them only to register and report in one member state for all their activities in the EU.

The European Parliament backed this approach, but the environment ministers would prefer to see different national approaches to defining producers, as well as separate national registers.

The dossier will now go back to the European Parliament for a second reading.

The European Commission estimates that each European currently generates 17-20 kg of waste electric and electronic equipment per year. This includes anything from light bulbs to computers, TV sets, mobile phones, kettles and refrigerators.

The EU's 2003 Directive on Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) aims to increase the re-use, recycling and recovery of such waste, but has come under fire for being too complicated, costly and even impossible to implement, leaving much room for improvement.

The European Commission tabled a proposal to review the WEEE directive in December 2008.

One of the reasons for the recast was a lack of clarity over both the products covered by the current WEEE Directive and their categorisation, which allows for different interpretations.

In addition, the Commission hopes that the recast will improve implementation and enforcement of the laws, both rather poor so far, and cut related unnecessary administrative burden.

The EU executive's 2008 impact assessment on the recast showed that only one third of the WEEE produced annually appears to be collected, treated and reported according to the current legislation, while illegal trade and dumping of WEEE in third countries remains widespread.

18th March 2011

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