WEEE Recast Gets Electric

In Brussels, on Jan. 19, Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said he was pleased with the overwhelming support given by the European Parliament to an updated Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). A majority of MEPs voted in favor of a deal.

Lots of excitement for this measure; you could say the atmosphere is electric.

WEEE — when executed — sets preconditions for professional recycling of valuable raw materials like:

  • gold
  • silver
  • copper
  • other rare metals contained in used TVs, laptops and mobile phones.

Currently only one third of electrical and electronic waste in the European Union is reported by EU Member States to be separately collected and appropriately treated.

Citing “challenging times” and “rising prices for raw materials,” Potocnik made a good point that resource efficiency is where environmental benefits and innovative growth opportunities for European industry come together.

“The waste stream with the greatest relevance in this respect is electrical and electronic waste,” he said. “Today, the European Parliament has given a great boost to this policy, raising the binding collection levels to 85% by 2019.”

WEEE work. The new Directive will force exporters to test and provide documents on the nature of their shipments when the shipments run the risk of being waste. Illegal shipments of WEEE disguised as legal shipments of used equipment, in order to circumvent EU waste treatment rules, are a serious problem in the EU. The new WEEE Directive will also give EU Member States the tools to fight illegal export of waste more effectively.

The so-called WEEE recast also calls for harmonisation of national registration and reporting requirements under the Directive. In collaboration with Member States, the Commission will endeavor to adopt a harmonised format to be used for the supply of information in registers for producers of electrical and electronic equipment.

Administrative burdens are consequently expected to decrease by around EUR 66 million per year.  For Americans and WEEE, not much has been said yet.  There’s a wait-and-see air about it, but respectfully so.

WEEE all the way home?  The vote means that co-legislators agree on a common text. This will need to be formally adopted by the Council of Ministers in coming weeks.  Here’s what’s being asked:

Member States will be required to collect 45% of electrical and electronic equipment put on their markets by 2016, and then achieve 65% by 2019, or may opt alternatively for a target of 85% of waste generated. Some Member States will be able to derogate from these targets where justified by lack of necessary infrastructure or low levels of EEE consumption.

The existing binding EU collection target is 4 kg of WEEE per capita, representing about 2 million tons per year, out of around 10 million tonnes of WEEE generated per year in the EU. By 2020, it is estimated that the volume of WEEE will increase to 12 million tons. The new target, endorsed by Parliament, an ambitious 85% of WEEE generated would ensure that around 10 million tons, or roughly 20kg per capita, would be separately collected in 2020.