Just before Christmas the European Parliament and Council finally thrashed out an agreement on updating the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) legislation. Under the agreement the current national WEEE collection rates of 4Kg per person will remain for four years (after the legislation is passed). For the following three years collection rates will be assessed at 45% of the weight of equipment entering the market. After that, around 2020, member states can chose a collection target of either 65% of the weight of equipment entering the market or 85% of the weight of waste equipment.
It’s been a tortuous process getting to this point. As I reported last March, the Parliament wanted national collection targets to be 85% of e-waste produced by 2016. This has been pushed back to 2020 and countries can alternatively use the European Council’s preferred 2020 target of 65% of the weight of equipment placed on the market. So the Council has effectively managed to water down the EU Parliament’s proposal.
There are a number of other issues included in the legislation – various amendments will be debated when the compromise legislation goes before the EU Parliament again. But it was agreed that there will be obligations on retailers to take-back small equipment without a further obligation to buy. The scope of equipment covered will also be more broadly defined.
This was always going to be a good news/bad news sort of legislation. The targets have been lowered but on the other hand the scope is expanded and large retailers have been drawn in. In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter what the targets are if the law is being flouted and equipment taken overseas for ‘recycling’ that is dangerous to health and the environment. It remains to be seen if, and what, greater policing of the policies will be introduced, but the two should go much more hand-in-hand.