WASTE FROM ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT
Letter from Brian Wilson MP, Minister
of State for Energy and Construction to the Chairman
I have seen the European Scrutiny Committee's
brief on the above Directives and I note that you have raised
a number of questions. The Committee concludes that there are
still a number of uncertainties, particularly with the estimated
costs associated with these two proposals. I welcome the opportunity
to further explain the Government's position.
Firstly, on procedural matters, you asked why
a copy of the Common Position text has not been submitted and
why it had taken so long to prepare the Regulatory Impact Assessments
I must apologise that the Committee did not
receive a copy of the Common Position texts. This was not intended.
It appears the copies were accidentally omitted when the EMs and
RIAs were posted. I attach copies again.
The RIAs were originally promised last summer
and they were completed in March 2002. The main reason for the
time delay in preparing the RIAs was a delay in the Council and
European Parliament's agenda. The final Common Position texts
were not finalised until 14 November 2001 and were submitted to
the European Parliament in mid December 2001.
The main concerns of the Committee focused upon
the wide variations in the cost estimates given in the RIAs, the
difference between these and the industry's estimates, and the
high costs compared with "limited" environmental benefits.
To explain the cost variations in the WEEE RIA,
I need to draw the Committee's attention to the four main scenarios
Scenario ASeparate collection
in the UK increases to the same rates as that experienced in the
Netherlands following the introduction of the NVMP scheme.
Scenario BSeparate collection
of WEEE increases by the same proportion as currently achieved
in the Netherlands under the NVMP scheme.
Scenario CThere is 100 per
cent separate collection of white goods, brown goods and ICT equipment
and 10 per cent separate collection of small WEEE.
Scenario DThere is 100 per
cent separate collection of all WEEE arising, consistent with
the European Parliament's proposal Amendment to the Common Position.
(NB. The NVMP scheme quoted in scenarios A and
B is one of the schemes contracted under the Dutch waste electrical
and electronic equipment legislation and deals with the recovery
of white goods and small products).
Each of these possible options gives rise to
a different set of cost implications. One hundred per cent separate
collection of WEEE (Scenario D), for example, will probably mean
kerbside collections, which would be significantly more costly
than "bring" type collection facilities at Civic Amenity
sites (Scenario C). From these four scenarios, we can get an idea
of the likely differences in costs between the options. Aside
from the four scenarios, we also attempted to quantify the impact
of bringing forward the date of entry into force of the Directive
and of raising recovery targets for all products by 10 per cent.
These reflected likely amendments proposed by the European Parliament.
The RIA on the ROHS Directive reflects the likely
variation in costs between different sectors of industry. Some
sectors have already started to implement strategies to reduce
the amount of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and
brominated flame retardants in their products. Others, especially
in the specialist telecoms sectors, where products have to meet
certain durability requirements, are able to take advantage of
the exemptions set out in the Directive (for example, for lead
in the solder of servers and devices for telecommunications network
management). In addition to these factors, we have also estimated
the costs of bringing forward the entry into force date of the
substances ban by one year, as proposed by the European Parliament.
Variations in costs within the RIA
In summary, the WEEE Directive £200 million
variation in cost between Scenario A and D largely reflects the
difference in cost between collecting and treating a proportion
of WEEE and collecting and treating all WEEE which arises. The
European Parliament favour requiring the latter. Until this issue
is resolved at conciliation, it is difficult to provide a narrower
range of cost estimates.
The reduction in the cost estimates from the
initial WEEE RIA primarily relates to the greater flexibility
in the retailer take-back requirements of the Common Position
text. Early drafts of the Directive required mandatory in-store
take-back of WEEE, on a like for like basis. Retail space is expensive
and may not always be immediately available, and so this requirement
added considerable cost to the Directive. The Common Position
text, however, following UK pressure, allows the flexibility of
third party arrangements with no mandatory requirement to offer
in-store take-back. Third party arrangements would be less costly.
Difference between RIA costs and industry's estimates
A number of industry estimates are higher than
those in the RIA. The assumptions underlying these vary considerably.
However, there are two common reasons for industry estimating
higher costs with regard to the WEEE Directive:
The inclusion in the early drafts
of the Directive of mandatory in-store take-back at an additional
cost of over £500 million per annum.
The possibility of a requirement
on producers to write and print manuals for each product to cover
refurbishment, disassembly and reuse.
The latter is not a requirement of the Common
Practice text (and therefore not accounted for in the RIA cost
estimates). The Common Position text requires producers to provide
information as necessary to ensure safe dismantling. The inclusion
of the cost of producing these manuals in industry estimates can
be explained by a fear that the Common Position requirement might
be interpreted this way, and by an amendment proposed by the European
Parliament, which would require producers to provide manuals.
The UK has strongly opposed any proposal that every product should
require a dedicated manual, on the grounds that such a requirement
would be disproportionately costly and that it would offer no
environmental benefit above the Common Position text.
The Committee has expressed concern that the
costs estimated in the WEEE and ROHS RIAs seem to outweigh the
"limited" environmental benefits. I think the RIAs could
have been clearer on this point. Whilst they point out that benefits
are limited by the impact of other legislation, this should not
be read as the WEEE/ROHS Directives themselves having limited
environmental benefits. It was intended to make the point that
overall environmental benefits in this area result from the combined
impact of several policies. Each of these policies, however, has
an important part to play in achieving those overall environmental
As described in paragraphs 25-30 of the WEEE
RIA, research by Ecobalance UK on the second draft of the WEEE
Directive demonstrates the potential substantial environmental
benefits from the Directive. It looks at the environmental impacts
of the management of several waste electrical and electronic products
under the WEEE Directive scenario and compares them with the current
UK scenario. The potential benefits from the WEEE Directive are
measured in terms of reductions in environmental harm caused by
the greenhouse effect, depletion of the ozone layer, air acidification,
water eutrophication, emissions into the air and water, and depletion
of non-renewable resources. The research concludes that the harm
caused will be reduced by over 50 per cent in many cases as a
direct result of the Directive. My Department commissioned PriceWaterhouseCoopers
to update this research in the light of the latest draft of the
Directive. The report may be viewed on the Departmental website.
The WEEE and ROHS Directives will contribute
to the Government's sustainable development objectives, to greater
resource productivity and to its objectives on waste management,
in particular an increased level of reuse, recovery and recycling,
as set out in the Government's Waste Strategies.
The Committee has asked whether the WEEE Directive
might lead to a situation similar to that encountered for fridges
under the Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) Regulation (EC 2037:2000).
I do not believe this will be the case. The issues are fundamentally
different. In particular, the proposed WEEE legislation will be
based on a Directive text. It is not a directly applicable Regulation
(as in the case of the ODS legislation). As a Directive, there
is considerably more flexibility in domestic implementation. Moreover,
the treatment requirements of the WEEE Directive are primarily
related to dismantling procedures. We are not, however, complacent
and continue to discuss the requirements with all stakeholders.
Finally, the Committee has asked to be kept
updated on the situation with the European Parliament. The current
situation is as follows:
The European Parliament held a Plenary Meeting
on 9-11 April, during which they voted upon proposed amendments
following their Second Reading. The main points arising from this
(i) A heavier emphasis on Individual Producer
Responsibility with a requirement for proof that it would be disproportionately
expensive to be submitted to the Commission before a collective
system could be used. There are a number of Member States which
already have WEEE legislation. Most of these use collective financing
systems. These countries would be allowed to keep such systems
for up to 10 years after entry into force. While the Government
agrees with the principle of individual producer responsibility,
we prefer the Common Position text, which allows a choice as to
whether to use individual or collective financing, depending on
which offers the best solution. This option is particularly important
for smaller businesses.
(ii) Compulsory separation of WEEE from
household waste by consumers. We believe that this would be costly
and difficult to enforce. It could also lead to a sharp increase
in the amount of WEEE collected, placing pressure on the recycling
infrastructure and upon producers who would have to fund the treatment
and recycling. Again, the Government prefers the Common Position
text with a greater emphasis on consumer encouragement rather
(iii) Increased recovery targets. Recovery
can either be achieved through recycling and re-use of materials
and components, or through incineration with energy recovery.
Since the UK has little incinerator capacity, this would require
the UK to meet the targets primarily through higher recycling
and reuse. This would be very challenging.
(iv) Unfortunately, the European Parliament
voted to remove the five year exemption from the financing requirements
of producer responsibility for small manufacturers (firms with
fewer than 10 employees and a turnover of less than two million
Euros). The Government continues to support a time limited exemption
for smaller firms.
As expected, the European Parliament voted to
bring forward the date of entry into force for the substances
ban by one year to 1 January 2006. They have, however, ensured
that this ban will be introduced at the same time in all Member
States, by removing the words "at the latest" that were
present in the Common Position text.
Given the continued difference of view between
the European Parliament and Council of Ministers we expect that
the proposals will go to conciliation under the future Danish
Presidency and should lead to a final text this Autumn. I will
keep the Committee informed of developments.
23 May 2002