EU misses the point on e-waste


15th March 2011

The EEB welcomes last night’s agreement on e-waste at the Environment Council meeting in Brussels but warns we are still a long way from having a solid plan to tackle Europe’s fastest growing waste stream. The EEB did however recognise the efforts of the Hungarian Presidency to push through an agreement.

The Council seems to think our ever growing waste problem is one we can just bury and ignore. This is a long way from the resource efficient society which we supposedly aim for and they are sticking with an out-dated approach to waste rather than looking at it as an opportunity to motivate e-waste recycling opportunities,” said Stephane Arditi, EEB Waste Policy Officer.

We not only need to be sure e-waste is properly collected and treated but start preventing its creation by building innovative products which can be easily reused and as well as recycled,” continued Arditi. “We must start viewing waste as a resource and not a burden.

The EEB says one of the main problems of the Council’s proposal for the WEEE Directive, which covers electrical and electronic equipment waste, is that by lowering the collection ambition member states will not properly address the risks of illegal export and improper treatment. A higher collection rate would minimise the risk of e-waste being illegally dumped elsewhere.

In addition, possible policy innovations proposed by the European Parliament which could help minimise the amount of e-waste have been neglected by the Council, says EEB. For example, promoting individual producer responsibility which rewards producers for greener design, or setting a specific reuse target of e-waste, were options left untouched. It is vital that the European Parliament, who will now prepare its position for second reading, will stand firm on this.

Green economic reform?

In addition the Council also focused on the environmental aspects of structural economic reform, with the Commission’s Annual Growth Survey calling for the elimination of environmentally harmful subsidies.

The EEB has long campaigned for abolishing environmentally harmful subsidies. The new Economic Semester, which allows the European Commission and Council to scrutinise spending plans of member states, offers a unique opportunity to identify areas of lost revenue and could enable a greening of the tax base.

With countries across Europe continuing to slash public spending, a failure to abolish environmentally harmful subsidies would be nothing less than a scandal. An end to company car tax breaks could, for instance, save Europe up to 54 billion euros [1],” said Pieter de Pous, EEB’s Interim Secretary General.

EEB fears the Council is yet to fully understand what is at stake with our resources and its work on e-waste, namely the WEEE Directive, demonstrates the risk that European leaders continue to pay lip-service to the need to become more resource efficient but fail to deliver the tools for people to act.

Mercury Strategy welcomed

The EEB welcomed the Council conclusions on the revised EU Mercury Strategy saying it provides a positive leadership signal on the global negotiations towards a mercury treaty, underlined by the request for a full mercury-containing product ban. However there is still room for improvement at EU level says EEB.

The Environment Ministers showed that the European Commission should not delay measures on cutting back mercury use and should not wait for global developments but take action now,” said Rachel Kamande, EEB’s Mercury Project Officer.

Ministers were clear that a phase out of mercury use in the chlor-alkali sector should now occur at the latest by 2020. The EEB was pleased to finally see a phase out mercury beyond industry self regulation [2] but believes phase out should happen earlier than 2020.


Simon Nazer, EEB Press Officer, +32 (0) 496438469,


[1] Press release on company car taxation:

[2] The European Chlorine Council – Eurochlor has signed a voluntary agreement that mercury use will be phased out by all their member companies by 2020.

Mercury documents:

NGOs letter to MS - Input to the Working Party on Environment, 18 February 2011 – Need for strong Council conclusions on the revised Community Strategy Concerning Mercury
Also in ES
16 February 201

EEB comments on the BIO draft final report on the Review of the EU Mercury Strategy
16 July 2010

PR: European Commission falls behind on EU Mercury Strategy
10 December 2010