The European Parliament, in its Resolution of 14 November 1996 (7), asked the European Commission to present proposals for directives on a number of priority waste streams, including electrical and electronic waste, and to base such proposals on the principle of producer responsibility. The European Parliament, in the same resolution, requests the Council and the Commission to put forward proposals for cutting the volume of waste.
These directives and the regulations that resulted have continued since then to dominate discussions on the use and disposal of hazardous chemicals in Europe and major parts of the world. (See: An Updated Primer on WEEE & RoHS, Part 1.)
Council Directive 75/442/EEC of 15 July 1975 on waste (8) provides that specific rules for particular instances or supplementing those of Directive 75/442/ EEC on the management of particular categories of waste may be laid down by means of individual directives.
However, the objective of improving the management of WEEE could not be achieved effectively by member states acting individually. In particular, different national applications of the producer responsibility principle could lead to substantial disparities in the financial burden on economic operators. Having different national policies on the management of WEEE hampers the effectiveness of recycling policies. For that reason the essential criteria was laid down at the EC Community level.
Member states could "customize their own processes and procedures for implementation," but the overall mandates of the directives had to be met. For example, basic principles with regard to the financing of WEEE management had to be set at Community level, and financing schemes had to contribute to high collection rates as well as to the implementation of the principle of producer responsibility.
Member states were to ensure that inspection and monitoring infrastructure that enabled the proper implementation of this directive was verifiable, having regard to Recommendation 2001/331/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 4 April 2001, which provided for minimum criteria for environmental inspections in the member states.
The European Commission set the following early milestone targets for member states.
- August 13, 2005: Create collection facilities to collect household WEEE
- January 2006: Start of producer registration
- June 2006: Producer responsibility for financing commences alongside retailer take-back
- July 2006: RoHS substance ban commences
- December 31, 2006: WEEE collection and recycling targets to be achieved at the rate of separate collection of at least four kilograms on average per inhabitant per year of WEEE from private households.
The following eight criteria should be kept in mind when preparing a product for sale in a European Community covered by the RoHS and WEEE directives:
- RoHS restrictions on the use of hazardous materials including chemicals used in the fabrication of potting compounds, printed circuit boards (use TBBPA), soldering pastes (no Pb), or electronic components.
- A design that considers the amount and type of material that can be recycled at the lowest cost to the producer.
- A plan that includes the supply and retail chain logistics for implementing and financing the collection, recycle, and disposal processes.
- A design that allows for sufficient surface area to locate the mandated recycle label along with the producer's brand name.
- A documentation package detailing all of the materials used in the fabrication of the product and what items can be removed and recycled separately from the fully assembled product.
- A list of key member state agency contacts for each product compliance registration center that will be required to register and market the product into the target region in the timeliest manner.
- A product price structure that considers the cost of collection and recycling. This cost could be determined by agreement with the agencies or partnerships in a multi-party compliance scheme designed to relieve the individual producer of onsite responsibilities. It should be noted that the producer, without exception, has ownership for the effectiveness of the compliance scheme.
- A method for auditing all collections and recycle activities along with a reporting structure to verify compliance at the end of every year.
If the product meets all of the compliance directives as stipulated in WEEE, EPA, and RoHS documentation, the materials used in the product will not be prohibited by any of the existing directives and will have at least 55 percent of the total weight of all materials employed classified as recyclable. Collection, recycle, and disposal cost will be held to a minimum and registration with individual member states will be greatly expedited because of the forethought demonstrated during the product development cycle.