13 Dec 2019

EU-wide uniform conditions for the proper quality treatment of WEEE

A call for Implementing Acts to lay down minimum quality WEEE treatment standards in strict accordance with the European standards

The European Commission is considering the preparation of possible Implementing Acts laying down minimum quality standards for treatment of Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE). 

The signatories of this paper are strongly of the view that it is absolutely crucial to do so in strict accordance with the European standards for WEEE. The consultants1 that undertake the preparatory study, the Member States and the European Commission should acknowledge the importance of strictly implementing all requirements from EN 50625 and EN 50614, the suite of CENELEC standards covering the collection, transport, re-use and treatment of WEEE and avoid their watering down since they represent one integral set of standards to be applied by all actors in a harmonised way throughout Europe for improved quality waste management. 


 Executive summary of joint industry messages and recommendations: 

  • The European standards EN 50625 and EN 50614 for WEEE lay down specifications expressly designed to put WEEE legislation into practice and cover the process of collection, transport, re-use and treatment of WEEE. 
  • The standards and Technical Specifications constitute an integral and integrated set of normative requirements and specifications that are critical to achieving the overall objectives of WEEE legislation. 
  • Requirements on depollution, depollution monitoring, limit and target values, documentation, monitoring of downstream treatment put the legal provisions into practice. 
  • Putting the standards into practice is a viable proposition. 
  • To ensure uniform conditions for the implementation of Article 8.5 of the Directive 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), the Commission should adopt Implementing Acts laying down minimum quality WEEE treatment standards in strict accordance with the European standards for WEEE, the reference numbers of which have been published on the website of the European Commission (see here). 
  • Such Implementing Acts laying down minimum quality WEEE treatment standards will contribute to improved quality waste management and harmonisation of treatment practices throughout Europe. 

European standards EN 50625 and EN 50614 on WEEE lay down specifications expressly designed to put WEEE legislation into practice and cover the process of collection, transport, re-use and treatment of WEEE. 

The EN 50625 and EN 50614 standards, developed at CENELEC, one of the three European standardisation organisations, are the fruit of six years of intensive work by standardisation experts and a wide variety of experts from national committees engaged in the development of the standards, as well as including producers, producer responsibility organisations, recyclers, NGOs, independent experts and scientists. They seek to define the essence of what constitutes “state of the art”, as laid down in EU legislation, whilst ensuring alignment with Mandate M518, which emanates from Directive 2012/19/EU on WEEE and respecting other pieces of legislation. There is no evidence that the technical experts within CENELEC went beyond their mandate. 

  • For example, both WEEE and Waste legislation require the application of “state of the art” and “proper” (Article 8) treatment, collection and logistics of WEEE. The EN 50625 and EN 50614 series lay down specifications and clear procedures required to put the principle of “state of the art” treatment into practice – also in accordance with legislation regarding Waste Shipments, General Data Protection, ADR2, General European Health and Safety and Industrial Emissions. 
  • The term “beyond the Directive”, used by the consultants undertaking the study for the European Commission to allegedly distinguish between requirements emerging from the Directive and others, is misleading as it could be associated with the notion of doing more than is required. The normative requirements laid down in EN 50625 and EN 50614 seek to provide the level of detail required to put legislation into practice (see below). 

Currently the standards are actively being used. Five Member States are using them as part of a legislative framework. More than 150 WEEE treatment facilities have been audited in accordance with CENELEC normative requirements, contributing to improved waste management and harmonisation of treatment practices throughout Europe. 

The EN Standards and Technical Specifications constitute an integral and integrated set of normative requirements and specifications that are critical to achieving the overall objectives of WEEE legislation 

EN 50625 / EN 50614 should be considered one integral set of normative requirements that refer to each other, not a pool of requirements to select from. Cutting out parts of the various standards risks creating contradictory requirements or duplication across different standards and, alarmingly, might disrupt the consensus meticulously reached among a wide variety of stakeholders. 

 

Requirements on depollution, depollution monitoring, limit and target values, documentation, monitoring of downstream treatment put the legal provisions into practice. 

Requirements on depollution, depollution monitoring, limit and target values, documentation, monitoring of downstream treatment effectively and demonstrably allow for harmonised rules of implementation, uniform interpretation, unequivocal assessment of conformity with legislation and prevention of negative environmental impact. Furthermore, and most importantly, they ensure uniform 

auditing, verification and enforcement and should therefore be applied uniformly by all actors handling and treating WEEE. See the Annex for further consideration. 

 

Putting the standards into practice is a viable proposition 

A lot of experience has been acquired in the application of WEEE collection, transport and treatment standards. Applying the standards is clearly feasible and operators that have implemented the standards are generally better at managing risks, complying with legislation and achieving the objectives of the Union’s environment policies, in particular, to preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment, to protect human health and to utilize natural resources prudently and rationally. The cost of implementation varies according to the readiness level of the operator: those that are compliant with all applicable legislation have low costs of implementation but for those that do not it does undeniably give rise to capital costs. Some authorities are developing simplified audits for small scale companies and the experiences gained through this exercise should be shared in the next standards’ revision process. 

 

Why the European Commission should adopt Implementing Acts laying down minimum quality WEEE treatment standards in strict accordance with the European standards for WEEE the reference numbers of which have been published on the website of the European Commission. 

The standards currently put pressure on the “legally regulated market”, i.e. the operators that operate legally and in full compliance with the law, because they are most visible to the authorities. Unfortunately, this creates an unlevelled playing field for the market. Unless the standards requirements are applied uniformly by all actors handling and treating WEEE, the market will remain distorted and the protection of the environment is at serious risk to be compromised. The absence of implementing acts laying down minimum quality WEEE treatment standards is distorting recycling markets and encouraging WEEE leaks. There are massive flows of unreported WEEE outside the producer owned WEEE systems. Operators should not be allowed to undertake ‘lower quality recycling’ activities depending on the Member State where they operate. Only a legal instrument like an Implementing Act can guarantee the respect of minimum standards by all actors handling and treating WEEE. To ensure a level playing field, it is important that all WEEE is properly collected, transported and treated and that all actors involved in the collection and treatment of different waste streams (producer owned WEEE systems or not), respect the spirit of the legislation. 

This is why, to ensure uniform conditions for the implementation of Article 8.5 of Directive 2012/19/EU on WEEE, we call on the European Commission to adopt Implementing Acts laying down minimum quality WEEE treatment standards in strict accordance with the European standards for WEEE, the reference numbers of which have been published on the website of the European Commission (see here). 

Such Implementing Acts will contribute to improved quality waste management and harmonisation of treatment practices throughout Europe. 

WEEE treatment is complex chain of activities undertaken by several operators that can be located in various Member States. Minimum standards guarantee that all parts of the chain are fulfilling the same conditions. 

The EU should promote these European standards for WEEE at international level with its trading partners to ensure a global level playing field. 

For more information please contact:
Milda Basiulyte
Director for Sustainability & Policy Coordination
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