Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: 'As modern society increasingly relies on electrical and electronic equipment it is very important that they have as little impact on the environment as possible. Making sure that certain hazardous substances do not find their way into these products and that they are properly collected and recycled when no longer used is absolutely vital. This is an opportunity for EU companies to innovate and have access to valuable raw materials as the EU seeks to maintain its leadership role in becoming a resource-efficient economy which minimises the products' environmental and health effects throughout their life-cycle.'
Too few products collected and recycled
EU legislation to restrict the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and to promote the collection and recycling of such equipment has been in force since August 2004. More than four years later only about a third of electrical and electronic waste is reported to be treated in line with these laws and the other two thirds is going to landfill and potentially to sub-standard treatment sites in or outside the European Union. Apart from losing out on valuable secondary raw materials, this is especially worrisome since inadequately treated products pose major environmental and health risks. The illegal trade to non-EU countries also continues to be widespread. Moreover many electrical and electronic products not complying with the substance restrictions have been found in the EU.
Legislation on electrical and electronic equipment has proved difficult to implement and enforce by market actors and public authorities. The Commission proposes measures to address these difficulties and reduce the cost of putting into effect the revised directives.
New collection and recycling targets and greater coherence
The objective of the proposed directives is to develop a better regulatory environment, one that is simple, understandable, effective and enforceable. The scope and definitions of both directives would thus be clarified. The proposed directives would also improve their compatibility with other EU legislation such as the Waste Framework Directive and REACH and the recent 'Marketing of Products' package. They would enhance the implementation and enforcement of current provisions and lessen the administrative burden on businesses. Under the new WEEE directive registration and reporting obligations for producers would be harmonised and national registers would be made interoperable. It is estimated that savings under the proposed revised directives would amount to some €66 million. The directives also seek to better control the illegal trade of electrical and electronic equipment.
The proposed revised RoHS directive would cover medical devices and monitoring and control instruments. A list of 'priority' substances posing particular environmental concerns when used in electrical and electronic equipment will be assessed in line with REACH with a view of a possible ban in the future. Complying with the requirements of the directive will also be made easier with the introduction of the CE label for electrical and electronic equipment.
The proposed revised WEEE directive sets a new binding target for the collection of electrical and electronic equipment. The current collection target of 4 kg per person per year does not properly reflect the situation in individual Member States. Some Member States where the consumption of electrical and electronic equipment is widespread would have more ambitious targets under the new directive while others with smaller markets will have less ambitious targets. The Commission proposes to differentiate the targets by setting mandatory collection targets equal to 65% of the average weight of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market over the two previous years in each Member State. The recycling and recovery targets of such equipment now include the re-use of whole appliances, and weight-base targets will increase by 5%. It is also proposed to set targets for the recovery of medical devices.