Council and Parliament agree on electronic waste directive

Companies that produce electronic and electrical goods are now certain to be responsible for what happens to their products at the end of their useful lives, following a process of conciliation between the European Parliament and the European Council on 11 October.

Representatives of the Council and Parliament have reached agreements on two closely related directives, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE), and its sister legislation, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS). The latter means that certain substances – the heavy metals lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium; and the brominated flame retardants PBB and PBDE – will be banned from new products as of 1 July 2006.

With regard to WEEE, agreement has been reached on a collection target of 4kg per person per year from private households. European member states will have to set up collection systems that ensure that electrical and electronic goods are separated from other domestic waste, but the funding for schemes will come from manufacturers. Producers will be allowed to implement either individual or collective financing schemes, and they will have to clearly mark new appliances to assist final treatment and disposal.

Currently, each European produces an average of 14kg per year of waste electrical or electronic equipment, according to the European Commission. Of this, 90% is landfilled or incinerated without any pre-treatment. Around 40% of all lead in landfills and 50% of lead in incinerators comes from such equipment.

Parliamentarians are said to be pleased with the outcome of the conciliation. “Parliament got a lot of what they wanted,” a spokesman told edie.

The Parliament will now have a final vote on the proposal at the directive’s third reading in December, and it is certain that MEPs will approve, the spokesman told edie. A final rubber-stamping by the full Council of Ministers is also expected soon.

The European Commission has welcomed the agreement. Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström has stated that she is particularly happy that member states will have to strengthen the individual responsibility of manufacturers. “This will be an important incentive to producers to take the environmental consequences into account already when they stand around the design table,” she said.

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