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issue: February 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

European Report
European Commission on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Proposal Is Approved

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After 3 years of intense discussions, the European Parliament and Council approved the European Commission on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) proposal during a Dec. 18, 2002 session. Europe's domestic appliance makers were heavily involved in the discussions.

The new Directive requires a recycling rate of 80 percent (in weight) and a recovery rate of 90 percent for large white goods for the year 2006. The new Directive is adapted from the model that has been successfully used in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway, where consumers pay a separate recycling fee when purchasing an appliance. The fee will finance a non-profit recycling system, organized by the industry, to take care of the waste generated from appliances sold before September 2005. This visible, separate fee is temporary and must be suspended in 2013 for large household appliances and in 2011 for all other appliances.

After those dates, recycling costs will have to be included in the appliance price. Special exceptions were made for Greece and Ireland, which received more time to implement their systems. Because of the multitude of small Greek islands and the rural countryside of Ireland, the Directive gave these countries an additional 2 years to fulfill the mandate.

CEDED, the organization of the European household appliance makers, brought several urgent problems to the attention of the European Parliament during the discussions. For example, in the first proposal, the industry was to be charged for the costs of recycling the historical waste, with little chance of redistributing any costs to the consumer.

The separate non-profit recycle organization (also called the collective take-back scheme) is seen by many as being a more efficient and less expensive way of recycling, rather having each manufacturer set up its own system. A separate system can also be used to collect all products through a single collection point, which is easier for the consumer and could help organize identification of products according to brand, when needed.

Another important issue is the "free-rider" producer. If, as designed, the producers pay for recycling, how do the other producers know that everyone pays its share, especially the non-brand importers? Much thought was given to this, and in the final Directive, the manufacturer or the importer is required to guarantee recycling through either recycling insurance, a blocked bank account, or a membership in a financing scheme.

Regarding the processing of toxic waste, an important change was made in the original Directive proposal: previously, all refrigerants were to be recycled separately. Now, however, hydrocarbons are exempted from this obligation as their natural composition is relatively harmless (in terms of global warming potential) compared to the classic HFC gases.

This report is filed by Paul Roggema, European correspondent, APPLIANCE magazine.


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