Poor coordination on the implementation of EU waste recycling legislation could damage Europe's single market, the electrical and electronic industry has warned.
The EU's 2002 Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) will go into effect on August 13, 2005. But, warn key industry players, Europe's member states are not well prepared and a lack of competition among recycling firms could create barriers to the EU's internal market.
Recycling rules will mean that electrical goods producers must meet the costs of recycling products ranging from industrial equipment and refrigerators to washing machines and computers.
The EU's WEEE legislation leaves different European member state to interpret the recycling rules. "Some member states are using the freedom to change the spirit of the directive," said a Hewlett-Packard spokesman. "WEEE is no longer an environmental topic, but an organizational one."
Due to a lack of competition between recycling firms in some European countries, differences between recycling prices could lead to an unbalance in the EU's electrical and electronic goods market.
Hewlett-Packard notes that while the cost of recycling a digital camera has been reduced from 6 euros (approx. U.S. $7.80) to 1.50 euros (approx. $1.90) in Belgium, a price of 0.20 euros (approx. $0.26) would be possible if Belgian recycling firms were as competitive as Germany.
Electrolux pays Swedish recyclers 5 euros (approx. $6.50) to dispose of some white goods. In Germany, where the recycling market is established, the cost may be zero, or some recycling firms may even pay for junked products.
Manufacturers are calling on the European Commission to produce guidance recommending that national governments set up regulatory bodies to ensure competition between recycling consortia, keeping prices down and consistent across the EU.
"None of the member states mention in their national legislation that there must be a monopoly… but in practice there is little competition," suggests Hewlett-Packard. "We would like to see the European Commission at least provide a platform."
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