Hazardous substances and waste management

EHI position and engagement on waste management

EHI recognises the need for removing EEE from the municipal waste stream. We therefore welcome the recast of the WEEE-Directive with the effort to improve the effectiveness and implementation of the Directive through increased compliance. Various heating equipment falls under the scope of the directive (heat pumps, electric radiators, thermostats).

In the case of domestic boilers, for which the primarily fuel may be oil, gas or biomass, electrical energy is only used for support or control functions. Section 1.13 of the European Commission's WEEE FAQ states: "If electrical energy is used only for support or control functions, this type of equipment is not covered by the new WEEE Directive."

While domestic boilers, according to EHI interpretation above, do not fall into the scope of the Directive, it is essential that the current high recycling rate of the materials used in boilers is maintained. At the end of the product lifecycle, the product is being fed to professional recycling channels due to the value of the raw materials. Furthermore, due to their size and weight, boilers are not devices the end user would consider to submit into a municipal waste stream. They are installed, maintained and de-installed by professionals and are not comparable to plug-in appliances such as TVs, refrigerators or mobile air conditioners.

Legislative framework

The new WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU has been published in the Official Journal on 24 July 2012. It aims to improve collection, re-use and recycling of used electronic devices so as to contribute to the reduction of waste and to the efficient use of resources. It also seeks to limit illegal exports of such waste from the EU and to improve the environmental performance of all operators involved in the life cycle of EEE, e.g. producers, distributors and consumers.

Four years after the entry into force of the present directive, member states must collect annually 45% of the average weight of electrical and electronic equipment placed on their national markets. Three years later, member states are to achieve a 65% collection rate. Some EU states where consumers use fewer electronic devices may achieve the targets with some flexibility.

The scope of directive covers in principle all electric and electronic equipment. The Commission can propose changes after analysing the impact of the open scope on businesses and on the environment.

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RoHS 2 directive (restricting the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, 2011/65/EU) was published in the Official Journal on 1 July 2011 and entered into force on 21 July 2011. The new directive continues to ban lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and the flame retardants Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). The previous RoHS Directive covered several categories of electrical and electronic equipment including household appliances, IT and consumer equipment, but it has now been extended to all electronic equipment, cables and spare parts. Exemptions can still be granted in cases where no satisfactory alternative is available. The list of banned substances will be reviewed on a regular basis.

The key elements of the new RoHS Directive are as follows:

  • A gradual extension of the rules to all electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), cables and spare parts, with a view to full compliance by 2019;
  • A review of the list of banned substances by July 2014, and periodically thereafter;
  • Clearer and more transparent rules for granting exemptions from the substance ban;
  • Improved coherence with the REACH Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals;
  • Clarification of important definitions; and
  • CE marking denoting compliance with European norms reserved for electronic products that also respect RoHS requirements.

The European Commission makes available an FAQ document, intended to help economic operators interpret the provisions of RoHS 2 in order to ensure compliance with the Directive’s requirements.

RoHS 2 scope review - In the course of the RoHS 1 recast, Council and Parliament introduced an open scope and a new definition of a product's dependency on electricity. Throughout the co-decision procedure, the Commission maintained the view that any scope changes would require a prior impact assessment. Therefore, the Commission launched an additional study immediately after the adoption of RoHS 2. The consultants' final report and product factsheets, also including recommendations regarding Article 2(2), are available here: http://rohs.biois.com/product-group-factsheets. The study will be followed by a full Commission impact assessment and a legislative proposal under the Article 24(1) mandate to introduce adjustments in the scope of the Directive.