EU ministers set revamped WEEE targets

The EU Environment Council is calling for a 65 percent recycling target for e-waste, lower than the 85 percent called for by the European Parliament
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Ministers from EU member states have outlined their proposals for a revamp to electronics waste disposal law, setting a lower recycling target than that desired by the European Parliament.

Member states have agreed to tougher recycling targets of electrical and electronic equipment, while at the same time reducing red tape for business.
– Defra

The EU Environment Council's proposed revision to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, published on Monday, calls for 65 percent of waste electrical products to be recycled within eight years of the updated law taking effect. The European Parliament voted on 3 February for the target to be 85 percent.

"This agreement is an important step on the road towards agreeing a new Europe-wide directive by next year," a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesperson told ZDNet UK. "Member states have agreed to tougher recycling targets of electrical and electronic equipment, while at the same time reducing red tape for business."

The European Commission said in December 2008 that it wanted to "recast", or alter, the WEEE directive, but it has taken more than two years for politicians from the European Parliament and member state ministers to come up with their first proposals.

Recycled electronics

WEEE is designed to put the financial burden for recycling and disposing of electronic waste onto manufacturers and suppliers. The law says waste products should be collected and appropriately recycled, and consumers should be able to return used electronics free of charge.

The European Commission said in 2008 it wanted a revamp of WEEE for a range of reasons. It noted only one-third of electronic waste is collected and treated properly, with the other two-thirds going to landfill or abroad. In addition, illegal trade in electronic waste has been identified at borders. The Commission also wanted to decrease the bureaucratic burden on manufacturers and suppliers, and on the public sector.

In 2008, the Commission said that it wanted mandatory collection targets of 65 percent of the average weight of electronic equipment on the market over the two previous years in each member state.

The Environment Council proposed on Monday that member states must collect of 45 percent of the electrical and electronic devices put on the market from four years after the new law comes into effect, to be raised to 65 percent four years after that.

Ambitious targets

Computer Aid said it was disappointed that the Environment Council had set a lower percentage. "Ambitious targets mean ambitious actions," Haley Bowcock, an environmental advocacy officer at the recycling charity, told ZDNet UK. "It's a real shame that the 85 percent [target] was watered down."

Ambitious targets mean ambitious actions. It's a real shame that the 85 percent [target] was watered down.
– Haley Bowcock, Computer Aid

In response, Defra said that the 65 percent target is higher than the current target, and that the Environment Council proposal was not the end of negotiations.

The next stage is a negotiation for an agreement between the European Parliament and other legislative bodies, which is scheduled to take place in the second half of 2011.

In addition, an Environment Council spokeswoman told ZDNet UK the council has increased the scope of WEEE by including a measure to make sure photovoltaics were included in the directive — something environmental groups had been seeking.

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