WEEE statement by Commissioner Potocnik

23 January 2012

Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik
Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik

Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik (pictured) has welcomed the overwhelming support given by the European Parliament to an updated Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment.

A vast majority of MEPs recently voted in favour of a deal that reflects a similar level of ambition to the Commission's original proposal. This means a major boost to resource efficiency in Europe for years to come.

Commissioner Potočnik said:
"Today's decision by the European Parliament is good news for health of our citizens, Europe's competitiveness, and the environment. In these challenging times of economic change and rising prices for raw materials, resource efficiency is where environmental benefits and innovative growth opportunities for European industry come together. The waste stream with the greatest relevance in this respect is electrical and electronic waste. Today, the European Parliament has given a great boost to this policy, raising the binding collection levels to 85% by 2019. I hope this will encourage some Member States to be more ambitious, and meet the new targets even sooner than this deadline. Proper treatment of WEEE is important to prevent harm to human health and the environment, and its systematic collection is the precondition for professional recycling of the valuable raw materials like gold, silver, copper and rare metals, contained in our used TVs, laptops and mobile phones."

Currently only one third of electrical and electronic waste in the European Union is reported by EU Member States to be separately collected and appropriately treated. The existing binding EU collection target is 4 kg of WEEE per capita, representing about 2 million tons per year, out of around 10 million tonnes of WEEE generated per year in the EU. By 2020, it is estimated that the volume of WEEE will increase to 12 million tons. The new target endorsed by Parliament, an ambitious 85% of WEEE generated, would ensure that around 10 million tons, or roughly 20kg per capita, would be separately collected in 2020.

The new WEEE Directive will also give EU Member States the tools to fight illegal export of waste more effectively. Illegal shipments of WEEE disguised as legal shipments of used equipment, in order to circumvent EU waste treatment rules, are a serious problem in the EU.
The new Directive will force exporters to test and provide documents on the nature of their shipments when the shipments run the risk of being waste.

A further improvement is the harmonisation of national registration and reporting requirements under the Directive. Member States' registers for producers of electrical and electronic equipment will now have to be integrated more closely. In collaboration with them, the Commission will adopt a harmonised format to be used for the supply of information.

Administrative burdens are consequently expected to decrease by around €66 million per year.

Next steps
The vote means that the Co-legislators agree on a common text. This will need to be formally adopted by the Council of Ministers in the coming weeks.

Member States will be required to collect 45% of electrical and electronic equipment put on their markets by 2016, and then achieve 65% by 2019, or may opt alternatively for a target of 85% of waste generated. Some Member States will be able to derogate from these targets where justified by lack of necessary infrastructure or low levels of EEE consumption.

The existing WEEE Directive (Directive 2002/96/EC) has been in force since February 2003. The legislation provides for the creation of collection schemes where consumers return their used e-waste free of charge. The purpose is to prevent harm to human health and the environment from hazardous substances contained in WEEE, and to increase the recycling and/or re-use of such products.

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