Last reviewed 23 February 2012

Paul Clarke reports on the proposal to update the WEEE Directive.

Introduction

The Council of Ministers left it very late but just managed to reach agreement with the European Parliament at the end of 2011, ahead of MEPs' January 2012 second reading of the proposal to update Directive 2002/96/EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment (the WEEE Directive).

The new directive amends the basis for calculating collection rates. The current method is based on four kilograms per inhabitant per year. In the first four years following entry into force of the amended text, that method will be kept while, during the following three years, collection rates will be calculated on the basis of 45% of the weight of EEE placed on the market. At the end of this seven-year transitional period, Member States will be free to choose one of two methods: either 65% of the weight of equipment placed on the market or 85% of the weight of waste equipment. The directive also reduces the number of categories of equipment from 10 to 6.

The new directive

The new directive will, six years after its implementation, introduce the principle of open scope. Until now, it has only covered specifically identified equipment. The proposed change means that the directive will cover all equipment that meets the definition it lays down, with a few precisely defined exceptions. The new directive also creates the obligation for large retailers of EEE to organise collection points for small used equipment, which is expected to boost collection levels. Consumers will be able to dispose of their used equipment in an environmentally friendly way without being obliged to buy new equipment.

However, the European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufacturers has criticised the deal between the Council and MEPs as a missed opportunity. It claims that the two sides failed to address a key issue: the large share of WEEE handled by operators who are not contracted by producers. Under the December agreement, e-waste handled by these other operators will continue to fall outside the recycling requirements that producers have to meet.