European Parliament votes to control electronic waste

The European Parliament has voted to increase the recycling and re-use of control electronic waste, and to control hazardous substances within electrical equipment.

According to parliamentarian Karl-Heinz Florenz of Germany, six million tonnes of electronic waste were generated in 1998, and forecasts predict an annual increase of 3-5%, which would result in a doubling of such waste over the next ten years. Such growth, he said, means that there is a need to move away from placing the responsibility of waste disposal away from local authorities and onto manufacturers so that products are redesigned with recycling in mind.

The Parliament considered two proposals for directives from the Commission, one on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), and the second on the restriction of hazardous substances (ROHS) in electrical equipment, and adopted a number of amendments to both directives. For the WEEE directive, the changes to the Commission’s proposal include:

  • a higher target for separate collection of electronic and electrical waste, so that 6kg are collected per head per year;
  • a statement that financing of the disposal of electronic products already in existence prior to the directive should be by all existing producers;
  • a shortening of the deadline for the collection of WEEE to only 30 months following the entry into force of the directive; and
  • the provision of proper information to consumers on the requirement for separate disposal of WEEE, with penalties imposed on consumers who do not comply.

With regard to the directive on the restriction of hazardous substances, the Parliament’s amendments include an emphasis that the aim of the directive must be to minimise the risks and the impact on the environment and human health of the production, use, treatment and final disposal of WEEE. Parliamentarians also decided that the list of substances should be extended in the light of scientific and technical progress, with the ban on dangerous substances coming into force in 2006, with a review in 2003. Parliament also wants penalties to be imposed if the provisions of the directive are not complied with.

According to the European Environment Bureau, the Parliament has considerably improved the Commission’s proposals for a WEEE directive, particularly in respect to producer responsibility, but also regarding the extension of targets to all product categories.

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