Amidst uncertainty over whether the UK has met its battery recycling targets, the EU Environment Council has agreed tougher targets for WEEE recycling and producer responsibility, extending it to include solar panels.
Environment secretary Caroline Spelman and energy secretary Chris Huhne attended yesterday's meeting in Brussels at which a staged approach to the targets was agreed.
These would require European member states to collect 45% of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) from four years after the legislation comes into effect, rising to 65% four years further on.
The recasting of the WEEE Directive is also intended to reduce illegal exports of such waste from the European Union.
This recast approach relates to electronic equipment actually sold, well as targets that have been backed by the European Parliament last month for 85% of all WEEE to be collected. There is therefore a difference of opinion between the European Environment Council and the European Parliament.
The scope of the WEEE Directive has also been broadened. It currently includes TEN specific categories of equipment which are split into 13 categories in the UK.
The Council extended the scope of the law to cover "in principle all electric and electronic equipment six years from the entry into force of the recast. Photovoltaic panels will be included and will have to be separately collected," said a statement.
Officials from the UK Department of Business Innovation and Skills have previously argued against opening the scope in this manner.
BIS senior policy advisor Graeme Vickery said last month: “Some member states want an open scope but there are others – the UK included – saying we first need to look at what the benefits of that might be and should stick with the existing scope but give greater clarity on what the scope is.”
The Council is proposing to increase the recovery and reuse requirements by up to 5% for electrical equipment as well, which would take effect three years from the entry into force of the recast Directive.
Last year, the UK reached a 38.4% collection rate, so the 45% target is well within reach. The 85% target would be challenging. Already now, EU countries must annually collect at least 4kg of electric and electronic waste per inhabitant.