The gathering was the biggest yet organised to debate the impact of the directives, one of which (termed "WEEE") tackles waste treatment and recycling, while the other ("ROS") proposes restrictions on certain hazardous substances. The proposals were made in June and have just begun their passage though the EU's legislative mill, with a first reading expected to be completed early next year (ENDS Daily 16 October).
Presentations were made by a wide range of interested sectors, including manufacturers, recyclers, retailers, local authorities, consumer groups and environmentalists, and can be found on the website shown below. The positions of most of these organisations are already known and the meeting revealed no major shifts in their outlook.
The hearing was dominated by an existing faultline over which a huge lobbying effort is expected in the coming months: a split between some manufacturers arguing for a strong commitment to individual company-by-company financial responsibility for complying with the WEEE directive, and others favouring a collective approach. The directive currently leaves both approaches open, but both sides say it needs to come down clearly on one side or the other.
A small number of major companies, including Electrolux, IBM and Sony, say that only by stating clearly that each company pays for its own products can incentives for greener product design be created (ENDS Daily 20 April). They are supported strongly by the European Consumers' Organisation BEUC and the European Environmental Bureau, who say the directive should promote this option.
Most EU appliance manufacturers, however, want collective schemes. They say the new law should explicitly allow them to pass on costs to consumers via a "visible fee" levied on new machines for around ten years. This would finance non-profit organisations dealing with the waste. In time, they say, the system could reward manufacturers incorporating better eco-design into their products by reducing the visible fee on them (ENDS Daily 18 May).
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