DGXI planning single electronic waste directive

Official denies reports that Commission planning daughter directives on waste electrical equipment

The European Commission's environment directorate (DGXI) is planning to draft a stand-alone directive on the recovery and recycling of electronic waste, not a framework law. An official told ENDS Daily today that instead of a series of daughter directives dealing with different product groups, the unit favoured a single directive dealing with all types of electronic equipment.

The aim of the proposal is to reduce the amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) going to landfill and increase the amount recycled. When the Commission makes an official proposal for a directive it is likely to include specific recovery and recycling targets, in keeping with recent proposals on packaging waste and end-of-life vehicles (ENDS Daily 9 July).

At present, 8 million tonnes of WEEE is produced in the European Union, accounting for 5% of goods in the municipal waste stream. The Commission is concerned about the growing volume of electronic waste ending up in landfills, and also about the dangers posed by hazardous substances - such as lead, cadmium and mercury - found in so-called brown and white goods.

With a growing number of EU countries considering national legislation in this area, the Commission is also worried about distortion of the single market. "Member states have an interest in having something harmonised at the European level," said an official.

A further rationale for EU legislation, according to the official, lies in the "great value" of recycling electronic equipment. Currently, only 5% of WEEE is recycled. "We have to do something to improve the recycling of these goods," he told ENDS Daily.

The decision to go ahead with the draft directive was taken by EU Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard in July, following a study on the economic and environmental impacts of WEEE carried out by British consultancy AEA Technology. The study concludes that "it is technically possible and environmentally beneficial to recycle waste electrical and electronic equipment". It also suggests that the proposed directive should set minimum targets for different product groups, as well as an overall recycling and recovery target for WEEE.

Producers of electronic goods are understood to be concerned about the "very high" costs of recovering waste products mentioned in the AEA study. In late August, industry representatives met with Commission officials to express their concerns. More formal consultations with industry will take place after the Commission presents a working paper on recovering WEEE to national officials in November.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: + 32 2 295 1111.

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