Firms demand cost sharing for WEEE recycling

Domestic appliance makers criticise shift to individual responsibility in latest plan for EU law

A group of leading European electrical appliance makers today issued a renewed call for the forthcoming EU directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) to impose collective financial responsibility on industry for takeback of used products. The law will have "multi-million euro consequences" for industry, the coalition warned, and a new draft issued by the European Commission's environment directorate last week "does not go far enough to promote collective take-back schemes".

Aiming for formal adoption by the full Commission by the end of this month, the environment directorate released its fourth set of proposals for consultation with other Commission departments last week (ENDS Daily 16 May). In contrast with the previous draft, the new text specifies that, for products marketed after entry-into-force of the law, producers will be financially responsible only for their own brands.

The shift appears to be a response to lobbying from a group of mainly electronic product makers, which has split off from the bulk of the sector to argue for individual rather than collective producer responsibility (ENDS Daily 20 April). While stressing that they were not opposed to collective recycling schemes, this group said that collective financial responsibility would do nothing to support greener design, which is one of the directive's aims.

The eleven companies participating in today's statement, however, directly contradict this position, arguing that individual responsibility would increase overall costs, harm smaller businesses and not, as claimed by the breakaway group, stimulate ecodesign. Only collective responsibility, they say, will produce a "rapid and effective solution...while avoiding the problems and economic burden associated with complex systems based on financing by accruals".

The firms welcomed a separate change proposed by the environment directorate, that would introduce mandatory collective responsibility for recycling "existing" WEEE. This requirement would start from five years after the law's entry-into-force, and to be financed through a "visible fee" on the price of new products for a further five year period.

Instead of applying this visible fee system only to historical waste, they argued, it should instead be extended to cover all WEEE, existing and future. Schemes run on this basis in the Netherlands, Norway and Austria had already proved the viability of this approach, they said. The Commission should build on this experience by favouring their creation across the EU.

The signatories to the statement are Atag Kitchen Group, Bosch Siemens Hausgeräte, Brandt, Candy Elettrodomestici, De Longhi, Gorenje, Merloni Elettrodomestici, Miele, Philips, SEB and Whirlpool Europe.

Follow Up:
Eamonn Bates, tel: +32 2 286 9494.

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