News: European Parliament addressed electronic waste issues

[tweetmeme MEPs want better collection and treatment of the growing volumes of discarded fridges, phones and computers in the European Union. New collection targets should be based on actual waste generated, they insist.

The Environment Committee voted at first reading on Tuesday on a proposed update to legislation on waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE). The report by Karl-Heinz Florenz (EPP, DE) was adopted with 54 votes in favour, 1 against and 3 abstentions.

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Exemption for solar panels

The new legislation should apply to all types of WEEE, says the committee. However, vehicles, military material and fixed industrial installations should be excluded. MEPs also want solar panels to be exempt, bearing in mind the photovoltaic industry’s voluntary target to recycle 85% of modules. All exemptions should be reviewed within five years.

Collection targets

Member States should collect at least 85% of WEEE generated in their country by 2016, argue MEPs. The Commission had proposed a 65% figure, based on new products put on the market. MEPs emphasise that targets should be based on real waste because older goods are often stored or given away, rather than thrown away.

The Environment Committee voted to add an interim target for 2012:  4kg per capita (already in the current legislation) or the volume of waste collected in 2010, whichever is greater. Member States generate varying levels of WEEE and should be free to set higher national targets, say MEPs.

The legislative proposal demands that Member States should treat all waste they collect. MEPs want the Commission to propose standards to encourage this to be carried out in the best possible way.

Targets to recover, recycle and reuse

The Environment Committee suggests a simpler system of six categories of WEEE, to replace the current 10. Depending on the category, 70-85% of WEEE should be recovered and 50-75% recycled. Recycling doesn’t just reduce waste, it recovers raw materials. MEPs say reusable appliances should be kept separate from other e-waste, and that a 5% target for reuse should apply for the appropriate categories.

Member States should carry out tougher inspections on exported waste, according to MEPs. Although only reusable electronic goods may be exported, large amounts of waste are exported illegally to developing countries, where inadequate treatment can have serious health and environmental consequences.

Right to return

Thanks to the existing legislation, consumers can already hand in WEEE free of charge to dedicated facilities. MEPs want retailers to be obliged to accept small appliances that are returned to them.

Better designed goods

Action at the design stage can help to reduce and better process waste. MEPs are calling for eco-design requirements facilitating re-use, dismantling and recovery to be in place by the end of 2014.

Next steps

The plenary vote on the WEEE Directive is currently scheduled for September 2010.

REF.  Press Release of the European Parliament No.: 20100621IPR76418

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