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The WEEE directive in detail

A more detailed look at the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive and the related Restriction of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive. Why were these directives developed? What is the anticipated impact on the British economy? What is the awareness among businesses (or the lack of it) plus information on further proposed legislation – The Energy-using Products (EuP) Directive

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Why were the directives developed?
In the UK, around 222 million units of electrical and electronic equipment are put on to the market each year. Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) has been identified as producing one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the EU. It constitutes 4% of municipal waste today and is increasing by 16% to 28% every five years – three times as fast as the growth of average municipal waste (1 million tonnes EEE per year).

In response, the EU introduced the following directives, which became European law from 13 February 2003:
* Directive 2002/96/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 2003 on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
* Directive 2002/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 2003 on the Restriction of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS)

The directives aim to:
* combat this waste mountain
* reduce the level of pollution
* encourage manufacturers to focus on environmentally friendly designs

The directives involve the concept of extended producer responsibility. In order to comply with the legislation, producers of EEE will need to consider the entire life cycle of electrical and electronic products, including the product's durability, upgrading, reparability, disassembly and the use of easily recycled materials.

Impact on the British economy
The infrastructure to implement the WEEE Directive is currently being established.

The associated costs of WEEE compliance are also being finalised. The UK Government estimates it will cost UK companies up to £455 million to comply with the directive. Individual companies could incur costs of 1% to 4% of sales.

How aware are businesses?
A number of surveys have found widespread ignorance among manufacturers and retailers about the impending WEEE and RoHS directives. More than half of global manufacturers of electronic and electrical equipment do not know how to comply with the impending EU recycling initiatives.

According to an online poll by US compliance testing firm TUV Rheinland, most firms are ignorant of how their responsibilities (and costs) will increase when the schemes come into force. The report states that this lack of understanding presents a "serious situation" for makers of such products. Manufacturers that do not comply with the WEEE Directive will not be able to sell their products in the EU.

Other findings include:
* 89% of SMEs are unaware of legislation
* 65% are disposing of electronic equipment in a way that does not comply with the directive
* 55% know nothing about their company's environmental obligations and responsibilities, according to a survey by MIREC Asset Management

The EuP Directive
In August 2003, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a framework directive promoting more environmentally friendly design requirements for energy-using products (EuP).

The draft directive applies to any product using energy, regardless of whether it is powered by electricity, fossil fuels or renewable fuels (with the exception of means of transport).

Reasons for the EuP Directive:
* Energy-using products (EuP) account for a large proportion of the consumption of natural resources and energy in the community
* Improvements in environmental performance of EuPs are seen as an important part of the EC's commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 8% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012
* It is estimated that more than 80% of all product-related environmental impacts are determined during the product-design phase
(German federal Environmental Agency, 2000)
What the EuP Directive means for producers
The EuP Directive requires producers to evaluate ecological profiles and designs before placing their products on the market (CE marked).

The directive imposes no direct obligations, but implementation measures targeted at particular products (or product categories) may require generic or specific eco-design requirements:
* generic requirements are likely to be process-based, i.e. encouraging manufacturers to evaluate the design of their products to improve their environmental performance
* specific requirements could be quantified targets or levels for a particular environmental aspect (e.g. energy consumption in use phase)
What does the EuP Directive mean for Europe?

The EuP Directive is based on Article 95 of the EU treaty. This is intended to ensure market harmonisation of product-related environmental protection requirements. Coherent EU-wide eco-design rules will prevent disparities among national regulations becoming obstacles to intra-EU trade.

National governments will have to pass the legislation to conform to the EuP by 31 December 2005, and implement it by 1 July 2006.

Legal obligations through product-specific implementation are thought to be some way off, but voluntary measures in the meantime may avoid mandatory ones. Implementation can be through an EMS or internal design control.

*Download The WEEE Directive Pdf

For more information on the EuP directive www.bis.gov.uk


For more help, contact
Giraffe Innovation www.giraffeinnovation.com

The WEEE Directive
Download pdf

RoHS Directive
Download pdf

BIS - WEEE web pages

Envirowise offer a FREE design track service to SMEs

Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling (ICER)


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