"Final" EU draft electroscrap text emerges

DG Environment backtracks on producer financial responsibility, recycling targets

The European Commission's environment directorate has produced a fifth, and almost certainly final, draft proposal for a directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment. The text, a copy of which has been seen by ENDS Daily, has been watered down by significantly delaying producer responsibility for "new" waste and slashing recycling targets.

The proposal's legal base is unchanged, however, meaning that member states could introduce stronger measures if they wished. One well-informed source said it was "95 percent certain" that the new text would be forwarded for formal adoption by all 20 European commissioners next week.

The major change in the latest draft is a rewriting of clauses introducing producer responsibility for the costs of recycling electroscrap. If approved, producers will now have a period of five years' grace after entry-into-force to prepare before having to pay for treatment of "new" waste generated after the directive comes into effect. A similar delay in responsibility for pre-directive "historical" waste was introduced in the fourth draft, issued last month (ENDS Daily 16 May).

The directorate has now also reversed its previous decision to force individual rather than collective financial liability onto producers. This option is now left to member states, apparently in response to last-minute pressure from a coalition of eleven major domestic appliance manufactures, which said individual financial responsibility would be costly and cumbersome (ENDS Daily 18 May).

The move is a setback for a second group of computer and appliance makers that

had successfully lobbied for mandatory individual responsibility to be incorporated in the fourth draft (ENDS Daily 20 April). Viktor Sundberg of Electrolux told ENDS Daily the Commission's turnaround in the new text meant it had "failed to use the full potential of producer responsibility" to green product design.

However, all industry sectors will draw comfort from a significant lowering of waste reuse and recycling targets to be achieved by member states. Rates for large domestic appliances have been reduced from 90% to 75%, those for computer equipment from 90% to 65% and those for audio and video equipment from 70% to 50%. A separate target of 70% for cathode ray tubes is unchanged, and marginally higher targets for recovery - which allows for incineration - have been introduced for all categories.

With the new draft the Commission's environment and enterprise directorates appear to have settled their differences over the directive (ENDS Daily 6 June). Environment's insistence that the directive impose minimum rather than harmonised standards - by being proposed under EU treaty article 175 - now seems to have won through.

However, the directive states that bans on hazardous substances - opposed by Enterprise - may need to be "adjusted" in the light of future risk assessments, and says legislation on product design and manufacture - for which Enterprise has already produced text for a draft directive - should be developed "as quickly as possible."

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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