The revised directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) has cleared one of its final legislative hurdles before becoming law, following a key vote in the European Parliament's plenary assembly in Strasbourg on Thursday.
The new rules, which introduce higher WEEE collection targets in the EU, are expected to enter into force in the summer following their publication in the EU's official journal. But they have to be formally rubber-stamped by the Council of Ministers first.
Member states will have 18 months after it enters into force to transpose the directive into national law. The details are contained in a compromise text agreed in mid-December by negotiators from the European Parliament and member states.
Some stakeholders expressed mixed feelings about the new rules following Thursday's vote in the parliament, noting that improvements had been made while also voicing disappointment. Others were more critical, saying EU legislators had failed to give producers of electronic and electrical goods enough regulatory certainty.
"What was meant to be a minor change to improve the functioning of this directive and offering industry more certainty as turned into a revision exercise with areas such as the scope still as unclear as before", said Adrian Harris, head of industry group Orgalime.
Stéphane Arditi of green group EEB agrees certain areas of the text are unclear, particularly the definition of large-scale fixed installations, one of several product categories that are excluded from the WEEE directive's scope.
In a statement on Thursday, EEB was also "outraged" by an apparent loophole in annex VI of the law which allows defective electronic or electrical equipment for professional use to be sent to developing countries for testing. These countries are ill-equipped to deal with hazardous substances contained in these products, it says. SME association UEAPME was concerned about a take-back obligation for small equipment such as electric toothbrushes. Retailers with more than 400 square metres of sales area will have to comply.
UEAPME says this includes larger SMEs. NGO umbrella body RREUSE deplored the failure of legislators to set separate
'prepare for reuse' targets in the revised directive. The European Commission has been asked to investigate the feasibility of introducing such targets at a later stage.
European parliament press release plus reactions from small firms' association UEAPME, industry group Orgalime, trade association RREUSE and EEB