Resource Use

New WEEE Directive published by the European Union

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The European Union has published the new Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive in issue L197 of the Official Journal yesterday (24 July), making it an official law. Member states will now have 18 months to update their national legislation to keep in line with the revised directive.

The recast of the legislation, formally adopted by the European Council in June, restricts the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and promotes the collection and recycling of such equipment (Directives 2002/95/ EC and 2002/96/EC), updating legislation that has been in force since February 2003.

The recast outlines that from 2016, Member States must collect 45 per cent of the weight of EEE placed on their markets, rising to 65 per cent of EEE placed on their national market, or 85 per cent of WEEE generated in their national market in 2019. Although some EU Member States will be given a degree of flexibility in achieving the targets (such as the Czech Republic and Latvia where there is lower consumption of electronic devices), it is hoped that 85 per cent of all WEEE produced in the EU will be recycled in 2020, equating to approximately 20 kilograms per person.

The new legislation establishes greater producer responsibility by encouraging full-life cycle analysis and has broadened it’s scope to include equipment containing ozone-depleting substances and mercury, which will have to be collected separately by 2018. This coincides with Defra’s Resource Security Action Plan, which highlights the importance of rare earth metals to the UK manufacturing sector.

Dr Philip Morton, Chief Executive of WEEE producer compliance scheme, Repic, welcomed the new law but outlined that rather than transposing the Recast into existing legislation, it would be better for new laws to be laid.

“The clock is now ticking and member states have 18 months, effectively until February 14th 2014 to transpose into their National laws. Ideally new Regulations would be better if they became effective from the start of the compliance year (1 Jan 2014)…The transposition process will give the UK the opportunity to learn from WEEE so far and from other regulatory regimes such as batteries, ELV and to evaluate best practice from other Member States”, said Morton.

“There are many excellent proposals in the Recast which provide foundations for the sustainable development of the economy, the environment and employment, and new Regulations will provide the opportunity for a root and branch review of the current system to iron out some of the less desirable elements.

“The Recast is the ‘what we must do’, national transpositions hold the key to ‘how we must do it’ and here we must strive for something which is fair to all stakeholders”, Morton added.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) also welcomed the formal adoption of the recast saying: "…government remains committed to considering the proposed improvements to the UK WEEE system outlined by the Red Tape Challenge. These proposals are designed to reduce costs for businesses and ensure that the UK can meet the new WEEE collection and recycling targets.”

Under the new law, retailers of electrical items with shop space over 400m2 will also now be required to provide facilities for customers to return small WEEE (no larger than 25cm) free of charge, without an obligation to buy anything.

In order to crack down on producers exporting WEEE to countries where conditions are hazardous to both the environment and workers, exporters will be responsible for proving why goods are shipped abroad.

The full WEEE Recast can be found on the Eur-Lex website.