MEPs seek to set new WEEE targets

The European Parliament has voted to put more pressure on member states to improve collection and treatment rates of the growing volumes of discarded fridges, phones and computers in the European Union.

Member States should collect at least 85 per of the WEEE generated in their country by 2016, MEPs argue. The European Commission had proposed a 65 per cent figure, based on new products coming to market. But the MEPs reckon this is a cop-out and the figure should be based on the actual waste generated, which means including goods which are already out there and becoming redundant.

The Environment Committee voted at first reading on a proposed update to the waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) legislation on Tuesday, based on a report from German member Karl-Heinz Florenz. The motion was was adopted with 54 votes in favour, 1 against and 3 abstentions.

The committee said the new legislation should apply to all types of WEEE, although vehicles, military material and fixed industrial installations should be excluded.

MEPs also want solar panels to be exempt, but all exemptions should be reviewed within five years, the MEPs say.

The Environment Committee also wants a simpler system of six categories of WEEE, to replace the current 10. Depending on the category, 70-85 per cent of WEEE should be recovered and 50-75 per cent recycled.

MEPs say reusable appliances should be kept separate from other e-waste, and that a five per cent target for reuse should apply for the appropriate categories.

Member States should also carry out tougher inspections on exported waste, because large amounts of waste are exported illegally to developing countries, where inadequate treatment can have serious health and environmental consequences.

MEPs want retailers to be obliged to accept small appliances that are returned to them.

They are also calling for eco-design requirements facilitating re-use, dismantling and recovery to be in place by the end of 2014.

The plenary vote on the WEEE Directive is currently scheduled for September 2010.