JANUARY 2009

EC taking timid steps to solve e-waste challenge, says EEB

EEB, Europe's largest federation of environmental citizens' organizations, welcomed the European Commission's proposal to strengthen the Directive on the recycling of waste electronic and electrical appliances (WEEE). The proposal safeguards the environmental objectives and the main provisions of the original WEEE Directive such as individual producer responsibility (IPR), which creates market incentives for producers to design better products for dismantling and recycling.

The Commission successfully identified areas of weakness such as low collection rates, the promotion of reuse of appliances and illegal exports to countries with no treatment capacity. However, the solutions proposed are timid steps towards reducing the environmental impact.

The per capita minimum collection weight has been replaced by a percentage target based on products put on the market in the previous years, a move likely to improve collection efforts at national level. However, no dedicated targets are proposed to ensure smaller items, such as light-bulbs and mobile phones, are recycled. The Commission has not retained earlier proposals to make producers financially responsible for the full cost of collection from private households, which means tax-payers will continue to bear some of the collection costs.

“Increased separate collection of waste electrical and electronic appliances is key to the success of take-back and recycling schemes, and this needs to be supported by clear producer responsibility objectives”, said Nathalie Cliquot, EEB Waste and Product Policy Officer. “We know that smaller items tend to be kept in drawers or disposed of in residual bins. These products deserve extra efforts through a dedicated collection target.”