Industry concerns on EU WEEE Directive emerge in polling

European Commission stakeholder consultation raises questions about a weight-based approach to recovery as well as failing to prevent illegal exports of e-waste.

e-wasteThe European Commission's evaluation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, based on a consultation from June to September 2023, has highlighted industry concerns about the effectiveness of the legislation.

The consultation, drawing 131 stakeholders from within and outside the EU, was aimed at assessing the Directive's performance against its objectives, especially in the context of the European Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan.

The feedback from stakeholders, including business associations, companies, NGOs, and public authorities, focused on several key areas concerning the Directive's implementation and its effectiveness in achieving its objectives. The primary objective of reducing electronic waste and promoting efficient use of resources was seen as only partially met according to the majority of respondents.

A significant 86 per cent of respondents believe the Directive has been ‘ineffective or only somewhat effective’ in reducing WEEE generation. Additionally, 74 per cent hold a similar view regarding the efficient use of primary resources in producing electrical and electronic equipment.

A significant point of concern raised was the Directive's approach to recycling and material recovery. The current weight-based target system was critiqued for not effectively encouraging the recycling of critical raw materials and the reuse of electronic components, suggesting a need for revising the target system to better capture the qualitative aspects of electronic waste recycling and recovery.

Issues were also highlighted regarding the prevention of illegal shipments of electronic waste, with 77 per cent of of respondents indicating that current measures have been largely ineffective in combating the problem, pointing towards a requirement for stronger enforcement mechanisms and tighter controls.

The principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) was acknowledged as a positive outcome of the Directive, with 71 per cent agreeing that the Directive has been effective in establishing take-back options for WEEE. However, the financial burden of the Directive was questioned, with 49 per cent of respondents indicating that it has led to unnecessary costs for businesses, citizens, and public authorities alike. Direct costs such as adjustment, administrative, enforcement, and hassle costs were reported to have increased due to the Directive.

Discrepancies in the Directive's implementation across the EU were noted, with variations in national transposition leading to challenges in compliance for businesses operating in multiple countries. This inconsistency undermines the Directive’s potential for a unified impact across the EU.

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