An update on the changes to the WEEE Directive

I have been paying close attention to the twists and turns in the recast of the WEEE Directive with particular interest. Over two years ago, the first proposals to recast the WEEE Directive were made. A firm commitment to the changes put forward has still not been made because the three bodies involved in making a decision – the EU Parliament, the EU Commission and the EU Environment Council – have not been able to agree on exactly how to tackle issues such as collection targets, where much of the debate is centred.

The current Directive gives each Member State a target to collect 4kg of waste electrical goods per head of population; the UK currently comfortably beats this target with over 7kg of collections per person. The Recast proposes that new targets, based on the previous years’ sales, are introduced. Lots of ideas have been put forward on what criteria should be used from an average percentage target of “put on market” tonnage to a higher 85% target based on the ambiguous term “WEEE arising.”

By the beginning of March 2011, no decision that all parties could accept had been reached in Europe on either the percentage or what method should be used to decide the collection target.

If the UK is to meet any potential future collection targets, the level of collection and reporting of WEEE is going to have to rise substantially. The Environment Agency figures showed that last year the UK collection rate of business WEEE was just 4.8% – that’s way behind the proposed 45% starting target.

There is large scale recycling taking place in the UK but it isn’t all being recorded. So although we currently meet and exceed the current EU targets, if the Recast changes the way the targets are calculated, the UK will be considerably behind its legal recycling obligations.

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