German electro-scrap law passes first hurdle

Lower Saxony initiative for new, wider, decree passes Bundesrat environment committee

An initiative by the German state of Lower Saxony to draw up a federal takeback decree for old electrical and electronic equipment has passed its first legislative hurdle after being accepted by the environment committee of the Bundesrat, Germany's upper parliamentary house.

Before last year's elections, the previous federal government had proposed a decree to require takeback of information technology (ENDS Daily 26 May 1998), but this was eventually defeated in the Bundesrat, where Germany's states are represented.

Under the new decree, drawn up initially by the environment ministry of Lower Saxony along with that of North Rhine Westphalia, the proposal has now been broadened to cover all electronic and electrical equipment generated by households and small enterprises.

Manufacturers of relevant equipment would be made responsible for sorting and recycling an equivalent amount or number of items to their sales in any particular year, while local authorities would pay for initial collection. No specific recycling targets are mentioned in the draft, but a spokesperson for the Lower Saxony environment ministry told ENDS Daily that in principle the law was aimed at securing full recovery of electronic and electrical equipment.

In negotiations leading to the compromise put to the Bundesrat environment committee late last month, Germany's Federation for Electrical and Electronic Industries (ZVEI) initially called for consumers to be required to pay a disposal charge, but eventually had to drop its demand. The ZVEI also agreed in principle to manufacturers being made responsible for recycling of equipment made before the decree's entry-into-force, though only if local authorities are required to pay for collection.

However, the debate is far from over. During discussions in the Bundesrat environment committee, North Rhine Westphalia called for financial responsibilities on industry to be reinforced, so reducing the potential costs to local authorities. This and other changes proposed by the committee had caused new problems, Norbert Knaup of the ZVEI told ENDS Daily today. If the plan was maintained in its new form then industry would revert to its previous opposition to paying for any equipment built before the decree's entry-into-force, he said.

The next discussions on the takeback decree will now be held in September, when the Bundesrat's economics and interior committees will scrutinise it. After this it will go to the Bundesrat plenary, followed by the Bundestag, which will have to accept or reject the measure in its entirety.

Follow Up:
Lower Saxony environment ministry, tel: +49 511 1200; ZVEI, tel: +49 69 63020.

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