Orgalime Blog

In its session this Wednesday, the College of Commissioners has adopted proposed amendments on two core legislative instruments affecting European manufacturers of electrical and electronic appliances, namely the Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and a Directive on substance restrictions in such appliances (RoHS).

While the electrical engineering and electronics industry have already questioned the need for revising the existing legislation at all barely two years after the Directives have been enacted in the last member state, the industry finds that the proposals are even more ill conceived than were the original Directives.

The Commission is encouraging member states to again open the debate on the financing system for WEEE a move that the industry considers as just irresponsible. My Secretary General, Adrian Harris, stated “keeping the financing of the WEEE collection and management systems stable, has been a fundamental request of manufacturers who have spent the last years investing heavily in setting up throughout Europe an extensive network of waste collection and treatment systems. Now that the teething pains are beginning to subside, we need to be able to operate these in as stable a regulatory environment as possible.”

Moreover it is somewhat of a mystery how producers can be expected to be responsible for meeting a new collection rate of 65%, when local authorities themselves only pass about 40% of this to waste treatment: producers of electrical and electronic equipment have no means of “compelling” consumers to discard equipment, nor can they prevent the collection of used products by other economic operators, in particular by scrap merchants or the local authorities themselves, who often sell the waste equipment they have collected. Added Harris “making producers responsible for meeting unrealistic targets and getting them to pay for collection of all waste when they cannot recover waste with a positive value just means that consumers will end up paying more – twice in fact: once for their usual household collection through local taxes, which are unlikely to go down, and a second time for the costs which producers will now have to bear. This is both a slap in the face of serious manufacturers trying to put producer responsibility into practice and of consumers, who are already facing the economic hardship engendered by the current financial crisis.”

Regarding RoHS: while the industry welcomes the attempt to harmonise the scope of the directive, Orgalime believes that including new substances under RoHS is a clear case of unnecessary duplication of regulation and therefore wasting taxpayers’ money: the four substances added for assessment are already on the radar screen of REACH.

In the context of the Commission’s recently launched Economic Recovery Plan, Orgalime therefore intends to follow up this matter with the President of the European Commission, to express its concern on the gap between the Commission’s stated policy objectives and the reality of its regulatory proposals.

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