MAC: Mines and Communities

European Electroscrap Laws Enter into Force

Published by MAC on 2003-02-17

European Electroscrap Laws Enter into Force

Brussels, Belgium (ENS)

February 17, 2003

A major package of European Union laws on the management of electrical and electronic waste and hazardous substances in manufactured equipment entered into force on Thursday with publication in the EU's official journal. Implementation deadlines under the two laws extend over nearly six years.

The first deadline is August 13 next year, 18 months after entry into force, by which time EU member states must transpose both laws onto their own national statute books.

Under the electrical and electronic waste (WEEE) law, authorities will then have a further year - until August 13, 2005 - to introduce free take back of waste goods by final owners and to ensure that equipment producers are responsible for financing the collection, treatment, recovery and disposal of all waste.

Individual firms will be financially responsible for their own goods marketed after August 13, 2005, and collectively responsible for recycling all waste generated by products put on the market before this date. Makers will be allowed to show the cost of treating this "historical" waste in the price tag of new products, but only for a transitional period of eight years, or 10 years in the case of large domestic items such as refrigerators. The next major deadline is December 31, 2006. By this date EU member states, which by then will number 25 countries, must have reached an average waste collection rate of four kilograms (8.8 pounds) per inhabitant annually.

At the same time producers have to reach a series of demanding recycling and recovery targets for different categories of appliance. The European Commission will set out rules for monitoring compliance with these by August 2004.

Lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromum ban Under the hazardous substances in manufactured equipment (RoHS) law, manufacturers will have to cease using lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium, or the brominated flame retardants PBDE and PBB, in products marketed from July 1, 2006. Where member states have already introduced national restrictions, these will remain in place.

There are a series of exemptions from this prohibition in cases where alternatives are not yet developed. By February 13, 2005 the Commission will review these and propose changes based on technical and scientific progress. All exemptions must be reviewed every four years.

The final dated deadline in the new package is December 31, 2008. By then the European Union must have established new collection, recycling and recovery targets. These may include new targets for the re-use of whole appliances and for the treatment of medical devices.

The European Commission, European Parliament and Council of Ministers have published a declaration alongside the laws in response to German concerns over an article on waste from non-household sources. Some firms fear a literal reading of the law could have serious implications for financial accounting procedures. The institutions say they will "act expeditiously" to change the laws if these fears prove founded.

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