Firms criticise draft EU electrical waste law

Waste collection targets opposed, concerns raised over financing of take-back schemes

European industry groups have joined governments in demanding that collection targets be dropped from a proposed EU law on the collection and recycling of electrical and electronic wastes. The plan is currently being drafted by the European Commission's environment department (DGXI).

At a meeting with DGXI last week, manufacturing and retailing trade associations said a proposal for collection targets to be set on the basis of goods sold and an estimate of the average lifetime of each type of appliance was simply unworkable. Member states made similar points when they discussed the proposal with DGXI last month (ENDS Daily 27 May).

"It's almost the first time that we have had targets on things that actually rely on certain types of behaviour from end-users," said one industry spokesperson. Some associations said that the Commission should instead simply propose a ban on all disposal of electrical and electronic wastes in landfills.

Groups also took issue with DGXI's plan on the one hand to allow goods to be incinerated with energy recovery as a form of recycling, but on the other to disallow this from contributing towards achievement of recycling targets. They argued that this would exclude goods such as televisions from the recycling targets, and might make them unachievable.

Financing of take-back schemes is also causing concern. Some large producers are balking at the thought of having to put up prices of goods to cover the costs for taking them back in the future, as proposed by DGXI.

Others are more worried about how to finance the take-back of goods already on the market. DGXI proposes to leave this to member states' discretion but says raising the price of new goods may be one option. Companies say this may lead to distortions in competition. Orgalime, which represents European electrical and electronics industries, says that historical waste should be dealt with through negotiated agreements between governments and industry, with consumers paying a fee at the time of disposal.

Orgalime also criticises DGXI for putting responsibility for financing collection only on producers and calls on it to elaborate how responsibility should be shared between producers, local governments, retailers and consumers.

DGXI's proposal for the use of certain hazardous chemicals to be phased out in goods manufacture also draws fire. The UK Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling (Icer) complains that the proposal is not based on a risk assessment of the chemicals, which sets a "dangerous precedent" for other legislation.

DGXI is expected to issue a revised draft of its directive next month, shortly after a further consultation meeting with EU member states, industry and NGOs on 10 July.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111; Orgalime, tel: +32 2 511 3484; Icer, tel: +44 171 457 5022.

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