MEPs vote to crack down on pollution from ‘non-road mobile machinery’

The European Parliament has shown strong support for proposals to cut down on emissions from lawnmowers and hedge trimmers, with eventual reductions of up to 85%, provided loopholes left open for big manufacturers are closed.


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The proposal will establish two stages of limit values, one to be met 18 months after the Directive becomes law, and the second between 2004 and 2010, depending on the category of the engine. Eventually, the emissions from an engine for the smallest types of equipment, so called handheld engines, will be about 80-85% lower than from an engine of today, the proposal says. In addition there will be a fuel saving due to technological improvements of about 30%, limiting costs to the consumer.

The standards have been developed in close co-operation with the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA), have also been applied in Japan, and will result in “a world-wide aligned set of standards which deliver a high level of environmental protection”, allowing industry the possibility to develop and market one world-wide concept. The EU’s limit values for hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides emitted by the machines’ small spark-ignition engines will follow the US, but Parliament voted strongly in favour of deleting the loophole allowing manufacturers to offset higher emission limits for some products against lower ones for others. This so-called ‘averaging and banking’ system used in the US is unfair, MEPs decided, as it gives big producers an unfair advantage.

To get the Directive through Parliament in one reading, Parliament passed a series of amendments exempting chainsaws from legislation and defining small-volume manufacturers as producing less than 25,000 units a year. Under this compromise deal, Parliament has also classed generators, pumps and the engines used to power snow-throwers as ‘hand-held’ to give them more generous limit values and slightly longer compliance deadlines. MEPS also want member states to be able to give manufacturers economic incentives, offsetting the costs of compliance, to meet the second stage limits early, and also wants the Commission to assess whether it is impossible for certain mobile machines to comply with the limits by the deadlines set.

The Directives’ rapporteur, Bernd Lange, says that, especially during summer weekends, pollution from ‘leisure machinery’ is one of the chief factors in ozone formation. “Mowing the lawn for an hour with a four-stroke lawnmower produces the same level of emissions as a modern car travelling at 150 kilometres per hour for an hour,” he said.

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