EU electronics design proposal criticised

Environmentalists say plan would lower protection and pre-empt integrated product policy

Proposals by the European Commission's enterprise directorate to regulate the design of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) would provide insufficient environmental protection and undermine a Commission initiative on integrated product policy, according to NGO coalition the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

In a position paper released yesterday, the group says plans for a directive would devolve too much responsibility for setting environmental norms and design requirements to European standards bodies such as CEN. "This boils down to giving industry the task of defining the level of ambition for environmental protection," it complains. The EEB recently withdrew from CEN working groups, describing its presence "on balance, not positive for the environment" (see separate article, today's issue).

Moreover, the group says, the directive proposal is flawed because it "anticipates the features" of an integrated product policy (IPP) being drafted by the Commission's environment directorate. A green paper on IPP is expected is expected later this month. The group says the EEE proposal should be retabled after a concrete IPP strategy is in place.

The proposal was released by the enterprise directorate in April and was widely seen as both an attempt to claw back the initiative over IPP and a means to weaken the environment directorate's planned bans on hazardous substances in the draft electroscrap directive (ENDS Daily 2 May). In most respects, however, the two proposals do not compete with each other.

The EEB said a directive on EEE design was necessary but that the enterprise directorate should "seriously reconsider" its proposal. Most of all, it should not get in the way of strong substances bans in the electroscrap proposal, the group said. The rapidly-growing pile of waste electronic goods made the bans a pressing concern, it said, adding that the EU's approach restricting hazardous substances could be changed in favour of a "horizontal" substance-based rather than waste stream-based approach once new IPP and chemicals strategies were in place.

Follow Up:
EEB, tel: +32 2 289 1090; see also press release, and position paper.

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