Austrian environment minister, Martin Bartenstein, had written to the committee asking the parliament to take speedy action in order to allow ministers to reach a common position on the draft law at their forthcoming meeting in December. Austria has made the "end-of-life vehicles" proposal one of its key environmental dossiers during its six-month presidency of the EU.
However, MEPs decided that there would not be enough time to table amendments to the proposal to get it through a plenary session of the parliament before the end of the year. This will disappoint the Austrian presidency which will now only be able to steer through a broad consensus between ministers at the December meeting, as a first reading from parliament is required before a more formal agreement can be reached.
The committee's chairman, Ken Collins, warned the Council of Ministers not to antagonise MEPs by reaching a so-called "political agreement" before hearing parliament's view.
During this morning's committee meeting in Brussels, German Christian Democrat Karl-Heinz Florenz presented his report on the recycling proposal. In a proposed amendment that provoked much dissent between committee members, Mr Florenz suggested deleting the European Commission's proposal to allow all EU car owners to dispose of scrap cars free-of-charge. National governments should instead encourage "low-cost" take-back systems by recycling companies, he said.
Mr Florenz claimed that insisting on free take-back paid for by motor manufacturers would disrupt the car recycling market, putting small companies at risk. Replying for the European Commission, waste official Ludwig Krämer said that free take-back was an important incentive to ensure that old cars were properly recycled rather than being abandoned in the countryside or exported to eastern Europe.
The Florenz report also seeks to soften a Commission proposal that all lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium should be separated from scrap cars before they are shredded, applying to any vehicle built after January 2003. The MEP recommended adding a clause to give the Commission the right to define maximum tolerable limits of the metals and to grant derogations lasting up to three years where it is judged that no viable alternatives exist.
Mr Florenz also suggests that member states should be free to use voluntary agreements to implement some of the draft directive's provisions. These would include the removal of heavy metals before shredding, the creation of take-back systems, the identification of components that should be removed, and the publication of information on reuse, recovery and recycling rates.
A number of committee members responded by calling for the addition of further amendments to bring buses and lorries under the directive's scope, and to add PVC to the list of substances required to be removed from scrap cars before shredding.
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