Yesterday (3 February 2011) MEPs met to discuss and vote on European Commission proposals to recast the WEEE Directive.
Although the Parliament reached their first reading agreement yesterday by 530 votes to 37 (with 22 abstentions), this is only the first formal step in what is expected to be a lengthy process. The proposals are yet to be agreed by the Council of Ministers (individual country representatives) and an agreement there is likely to be much harder to reach. The Council Working Group will meet next Thursday and again on March 14. The next Parliament discussion is not scheduled until September 17.
One of the significant changes which has been on the table for some time is to amend the target in order to better incentivise Member States to maximise their collection of WEEE. The initial Commission proposal was to change the current 4kg per head target to achieve a level of 65% of whatever was placed on the market (EEE) by 2016. The UK currently collects around 35% of all consumer WEEE placed on the market so this would represent a significant challenge in the time scale provided, and most other Member States are also thought to believe that this is too ambitious.
However, yesterday the parliament voted to uphold a subsequent Environment Committee recommendation that a target of 85% of WEEE arising be applied. It was largely considered that this new target effectively results in about the same collection rate as a target of 65% of what is placed on the market but could have the advantage of being more achievable because the actual tonnage of WEEE in the waste stream is often not directly related to new sales. However it also has significant practical implementation issues associated with it. For example, there are no practical proposals for how the total amount of e-waste is to be measured - especially given the inevitable disposal of small electrical items in the residual waste stream and how these could be accounted for.
A number of further amendments were debated and accepted as Parliament proposals yesterday, some of which will be very positive for streamlining the collection system in the UK. For example:
- the inclusion of all electrical equipment within the scope of the recast (with a few specific exemptions)
- the simplification of producer reporting through the reduction in reporting categories from 10 to 6, and
- standardised reporting and registration throughout Europe
Furthermore, tougher inspections on exports were proposed in order to ensure only reusable equipment which is fully tested is exported outside the EU.
However, concern remains over some other proposed amendments which were accepted in yesterday’s vote because of the increased costs which they could cause. These include:
- the requirement for retailers to accept very small items of WEEE back from consumers in store and
- a requirement to make producers financially responsible for funding the collection of WEEE directly from households (whereas currently producers pay for the collection and treatment of WEEE from collection points)
It now seems likely that at least a second reading will be necessary before Parliament and Council reach agreement, and this is unlikely before the second half of this year. If this is the case, new UK regulations would not begin before 2013.
We expect to have a copy of the interim report shortly, and will make this available to members.
If you have any comments or concerns, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org