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New e-waste rules may be too much for UK business, warns Gov

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The Government has said that new electronic waste disposal demands from Brussels may be too difficult for businesses to meet. It has asked for industry's view ahead of summer negotiations on electronic waste.

The European Commission is revising its Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and plans a hike to the recycling requirements placed on industry in EU countries.

The Directive had imposed a target for each EU member state of collecting 4 kilograms of electrical or electronic waste for every citizen of the country. That will be replaced by a 'binding target' of 65% of the average weight of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market in that country in the preceding two years, the Commission said in December.

The Government fears the changes may be too costly for business.

"The UK welcomes the Commission's intention to strengthen the Directives, with further steps to limit the environmental impact of waste equipment. However, we are concerned that the WEEE proposals in particular do present some significant challenges for British businesses," said a spokesman for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).

BERR has launched a consultation process to seek the views of industry on the changes.

"Our consultation paper will give the electronics and ICT industries, the waste management sector, consumers and other interested parties the opportunity to inform the UK government's understanding of the impact the changes will have, ahead of the formal negotiations in Brussels," said the spokesman.

The 65% target is a 'combined target' incorporating levels of household and non-household waste.

The target is the result of Commission research which showed that 80% by weight of goods purchased are discarded within two years, but that not even half of that is recycled.

"In reporting the achievements towards this target, Member States governments would not only be obliged to combine the sales and collection, treatment and reprocessing of household and non-household WEEE, but would also need to include the tonnage of WEEE that had been identified and prepared for reuse," said BERR's consultation document.

That inclusion of reused material is in line with current UK practice. "The current UK WEEE Regulations already allow for evidence of reuse to be off set by producers against their notified collection obligations," said the consultation.

The Commission said that the changes were designed to fix problems in the original EU-wide laws.

"Legislation on electrical and electronic equipment has proved difficult to implement and enforce by market actors and public authorities. The Commission proposes measures to address these difficulties and reduce the cost of putting into effect the revised directives," it said.

"Under the new WEEE directive registration and reporting obligations for producers would be harmonised and national registers would be made interoperable. It is estimated that savings under the proposed revised directives would amount to some €66 million," it said in December.

Responses to the BERR consultation are due by 13 May.

Read the consultation .pdf here.

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OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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