EU plan makes industry liable to recycle old goods
BRUSSELS - Consumers lumbered with clapped out electrical goods will be able to return them to their manufacturers for disposal under new laws proposed by the European Commission yesterday.
The proposal from EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom will place the burden on makers of electrical goods to recycle worn out products as part of an initiative to cut down on what she called one of the largest sources of heavy metals and organic pollutants in municipal waste.
In 1998 the EU produced six million tonnes of this kind of waste.
"This is a major step towards the objective of sustainable production and consumption...consumers and industry all stand to gain," Wallstrom said in a statement.
In response to fears from the electrical goods industry that they will be saddled with huge recycling costs, the obligation on them to fund product recovery will be delayed by five years.
The Commission has been in consultation with industry about the plans since 1997, and Wallstrom said she believed the measures would add only one percent to a products costs.
The proposal also has to be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament.
Targets setting minimum percentages of recyclable waste ranging from 60 to 80 percent, depending on the product, will come into effect by 2006 at the latest.
"We have to tackle the problem of Europe building a huge waste mountain", Wallstrom told journalists.
"Ninety percent of this waste is currently sent to landfills or incinerated with no pre-treatment...people just throw it in the ordinary waste bin. It constitutes a big environmental problem," she said.
Waste produced by obsolete electrical equipment is growing up to 28 percent every five years and currently makes up four percent of municipal waste. Wallstrom pointed out that when home computers first appeared in the 1970s their average lifespan was 10 years, a figure that has now been cut to two or three.
An annex to the draft law lists the products affected, ranging from large household goods such as refrigerators and washing machines to smaller items like computers, toasters and toys.
The proposal also bans the use of some materials in electrical goods deemed to be environmentally damaging.
It requires that two types of flame retardants, known as PBB and PBDE, must be substituted by January 2008 although without reducing fire safety standards.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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