Recast proposals for the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive ran out of steam under the current Belgian Presidency. However, it is likely that efforts to reach agreement on the 200 amendments put forward during ‘first reading’ will resume in the New Year under Hungary’s Presidency.
WEEE created a lot of fuss and uncertainty when it was introduced in 2003. So much fuss in fact that the UK was late in transposing the directive into national law and faced the embarrassment of infraction proceedings. A significant proportion of our membership was affected by the Directive, and continues to be frustrated by it, so it will be a major environmental campaign issue for EEF in 2011.
The recast Directive proposes to increase the 4kg WEEE collection target to a target on each member state based on the percentage of WEEE it puts on the market. Other issues of potential concern include increased treatment and reprocessing targets, increased producer responsibilities, and an extension of the scope of WEEE.
It already looks as though the scope of WEEE is set to change. The Commission has proposed that the scope of the WEEE Directive should now be found in Annex I of the recast RoHS Directive and cross referenced in Article 2 of the recast WEEE Directive. The Recast RoHS Directive, which should be approved later this week, contains a new ‘open’ category - Essentially, this new category includes all EEE except that which is not covered by an exemption.
New proposals for collection range from 65%-85%. Either target would be ambitious for a country like the UK who currently collects only around 30% of WEEE. The proposal to increase the level of WEEE recovered is not contested, it would have a significant impact in diverting WEEE from substandard treatment facilities and reduce illegal exports. Our concern is whether such ambitious targets can be achieved within in the proposed timeframe (2016), what method for calculating WEEE would be used, and what impact this may have on manufactures.
Similarly we are keen to influence the debate on increased producer responsibilities. One of the proposals centre stage in the debate is that producers fully finance the recovery of WEEE. It is argued that in many countries (including the UK) producers only partially finance recovery. If this proposal succeeds it would require EEE producers to finance the recovery of WEEE from the consumer (e.g. kerbside collection) rather than, as is now the case, from municipal waste sites.
One issue which is causing major divisions between the European Parliament and Member States is the proposal which would make national registers of EEE producers inter-operational so that producers need only register and report in one Member State for all their activities in the EU.
This proposal is supported by Parliament because it would reduce the regulatory burden on businesses to the sum of €60 million. However, the counter-argument from Member States is that such a proposal could put at risk the ability for national enforcement authorities to effectively police WEEE as they would have limited ability to influence cross border activity. There is also concern that compliance revenues may not be fairly distributed.
There is much to be discussed and debated on WEEE and the direction of travel is not yet clear. The issue is a key issue to manufactures and so member dialogue is a critical component of our representational activities. If you would like to engage on this issue then please do contact me.