MEPs’ vote shows resolve in tackling e-waste but fails to protect citizens from dangerous accidents

[4th October 2011, Brussels] – Today’s vote in the European Parliament’s Environment Committee has left green group EEB with mixed feelings. On the one hand, MEPs showed resolve to deal with Europe’s growing e-waste problem by adopting key amendments which will ensure ambition. On the other hand, they failed to improve EU citizens from major accidents under the Commission’s proposal for a Directive on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances, the Seveso Directive [1].

As a result of the vote on the Seveso Directive, there is a serious risk of a weakening the major accidents prevention mechanisms of Seveso III and lowering the ambition of certain key requirements such as inspections [2]. Progressive demands such as the need to consider substances classified under REACH as Substances of Very High Concern and nanomaterials will be delayed for further review by 2015, whilst the consideration of large amount of carbon dioxide and corrosive mixtures (e.g. red mud), the lowering of the dioxin threshold to adequate levels as well the establishment of a Seveso fund promoting accidents prevention measures have been rejected.

“It is particularly shocking to see the Parliament adopting options for ‘creative accounting’ that would allow operators to hide the real amount of dangerous substances present in an installation” said Oliver Kalusch, executive board member of the BBU (German EEB member).

On the positive side, some improvements in terms of risk considerations as well as the obligation to apply Best Available Techniques have been made. The outcome on disputed aspects such as relating to transparency of information, public participation and access to justice were more balanced.

“We are relieved that some provisions on access to justice and public participation have been strengthened. It has to be clear to the European Commission and Member States that the public shall be able to give its opinion on the safety report and entitled to a proper judicial review procedure”, [3] said Christian Schaible, EEB Senior Policy Officer on Industrial and Chemicals Policies.

The vote on the WEEE Directive on the other hand, puts the EU one step closer to becoming a truly resource-efficient society. The vote reconfirmed Parliament’s solid support for an ambitious target for WEEE that is generated supported by specific reuse targets and high requirements for recycling achievements. Therefore, WEEE management was brought in line with the binding Waste Framework Directive hierarchy of treatment, in which prevention and recycling are top priorities.

“Member states will have to take the Parliament’s proposals a lot more seriously now and to change the focus on WEEE. We are no longer talking about merely adequate waste management. It is about maximising the effective resources use. After having backed the EU2020 strategy, it is now the Council’s responsibility to ensure that such a policy breakthrough happens and is made enforceable”, concludes Stephane Arditi.

Importantly, the vote on the WEEE Directive also closed potential loopholes for illegal shipments, by maintaining stringent conditions for shipment of used appliances, while easing professional appliances transfer for reuse within the OECD countries having ratified the Basel Convention [4].


Related to WEEE: Stephane Arditi, EEB Products Policy Officer, +32 (0) 2289 10 97,

Related to SEVESO: Christian Schaible, EEB Industrial Policy Officer, +32 (0) 2 289 10 94,

Oliver Kalusch, BBU, +49(0) 2302-9564095,

Editor Notes:

[1] Proposal for a Directive of 21st December 2010 on control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances COM 2010 (0781).

[2] Art. 19 of the Proposal has to a large extent integrated the environmental inspection requirements for industrial activities pursuant to the Industrial Emissions Directive[1], in particular the minimum frequencies for on-site inspections which are set at a minimum 3-year inspection frequency for all installations presenting the lowest risks. That may relate to IPPC activities such as intensive rearing of pigs and poultry, glass manufacture or paper production. However, in the Seveso III proposal these installations have been placed on equal footing with anySeveso installation (lower tier and upper tier), despite these having dangerous substances present. However MEPs have carried an amendment (228) of Holger Krahmer (ALDE) would allow an even lower frequency based on the Member State having established an inspection programme based on systematic appraisal of major-accident hazards. Regular inspections are crucial to timely detect eventual shortcomings in terms of safety, not only within the establishment but also from other (external) hazard sources and to ensure compliance by the operator.

[3] On public information MEPs supported the Commission’s approach to make information publicly available, including in an electronic format, but certain information will only have to be provided upon request (i.e. summary details of inspections and main findings from latest inspection conclusions), and the frequency for review has been lowered from annual to every 3 years. EEB’s demand to establish and regularly convene a forum composed of all relevant stakeholders (NGOs, representatives of workers and industry) to support the applications, implementation and technical adaptation of the future Directive has been carried. MEPs carried amendment 246 which makes it clear that the public concerned shall have a proper review procedure, covering procedural and substantive elements, which shall not be limited to certain cases under the Directive, but all provisions.

[4] WEEE contains hazardous materials which are most often not properly treated when reused products end up in countries with poor treatment facilities, also undermining recovery opportunities for precious materials.

[1] Art. 23 of Directive 2010/75/EC of 24 November 2010 on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) RECAST; OJ L 334/17 of 17.12.2010