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European Council Adopts Waste, Hazardous Substance Directives.

On June 7 the European Council (EC) unanimously adopted two controversial proposals: directive on the treatment of waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE Directive) and directive on the limitation of hazardous substances in such equipment (RoHS Directive). According to the EC, formal adoption will occur after the text is legally and linguistically finalized.

In a press release, the EC stated that the main objectives of the two proposed directives are "to protect the environment and human health from pollution caused by waste from electrical and electronic equipment" and to prevent "the generation of such waste and to reduce its harmfulness by seeking to improve the environmental performance of all operators involved in the life-cycle of that waste."

The EC hopes to achieve these objectives through product design excluding "dangerous substances," separate waste collection and improved waste treatment and recovery. Electronics equipment producers will also be responsible for certain stages of waste management for end-of-life (EOL) products. The directives also propose that private households can return their waste free of charge.

The WEEE Directive was set up by the EC to prevent waste electrical and electronic equipment by promoting re-use, recycling and other recovery methods. The directive applies to electrical and electronic equipment in these categories: large household appliances; small household appliances; IT and telecommunications equipment; consumer equipment; lighting equipment; electrical and electronic tools; toys, leisure and sports equipment; medical devices; monitoring and control instruments; and automatic dispensers.

Specifically, in the WEEE Directive, the EC agreed that collection systems will be set up 30 months after the directive is implemented, allowing EOL products to be returned free of charge. When supplying new equipment, distributors will be responsible for ensuring that waste products can be returned to them free of charge, as long as the new equipment is equivalent and fulfills the same functions as the supplied equipment. European Union Member States can, for up to five years after the directive's implementation, set up or facilitate alternative free take-back systems.

The EC also agreed that the collection target for private households should be, minimally, 4kg per person per year. This target is to be reached within 36 months from implementation of the directive. Recovery and recycling targets were also set, which vary according to the different categories, and are to be reached within 46 months of implementation. The EC has granted Greece and Ireland, due to their overall recycling infrastructure deficit, geography, low population density and low consumption of electrical and electronic equipment, an extension of up to 24 months on the deadlines for collection and recovery.

The WEEE Directive also mandates that electronics equipment producers will pay for the collection, treatment, recovery and "environmentally sound" disposal of waste products, with financing through "collective and/or individual systems." Responsibility for the cost of managing waste products put on the market before the directive's implementation (historical waste) will be provided by these financial "systems" to which all producers contribute proportionately. These systems are to be set up within 30 months from implementation of the directive. Small, independent manufacturers producing electrical and electronic equipment under their own brand, with fewer than 10 employees and yearly revenues of less than 2M euros, are exempted from financing requirements for five years from implementation.

Specifically, in the adopted RoHS Directive, the EC hopes to restrict the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment that cause "significant environmental problems during the waste management phase" and to substitute those substances by a certain date. For example, by January 1, 2007, EU Member States cannot produce new electrical and electronic equipment that contains lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and/or polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE).

For more information on the adopted directives, contact the Council of the European Union,

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Author:Hamburg, Lisa
Publication:Circuits Assembly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EU
Date:Aug 1, 2001
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