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Procedure : 2008/0241(COD)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0334/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0334/2011

Debates :

PV 18/01/2012 - 23
CRE 18/01/2012 - 23

Votes :

PV 19/01/2012 - 10.8
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

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P7_TA(2012)0009

Debates
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

23. Waste electrical and electronic equipment (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. − The next item is the recommendation for second reading from the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) (Recast) [07906/2/2011 - C7-0250/2011 - 2008/0241(COD)] (Rapporteur: Karl-Heinz Florenz) (A7-0334/2011).

 
  
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  Karl-Heinz Florenz, rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, I would like to start at the very heart of the matter by explaining what exactly we are talking about when we mention waste electrical and electronic equipment, because many people will say: all this stuff about waste electrical and electronic equipment really does not matter very much. One million mobile phones contain 250 kg of silver, 24 kg of gold, 9 kg of palladium and 9 tonnes of copper. One tonne of mobile phones contains 50 times more gold than one tonne of the earth from which gold is extracted. This illustrates just how valuable raw materials are and it can be shocking to learn just how casually materials are illegally shipped from Europe. Waste is exported to Africa, India and China, where it is recycled under ruinous environmental standards; while we can achieve 90% quality with our recycling and reuse, other countries compare quite badly with only around 18 or 19%.

The significance is clear. For this reason, I am actually quite happy that we have taken the right approach with some of the fundamental questions in this directive: illegal shipments of waste are becoming rarer because we have introduced the reversal of the burden of proof. Yet, we are once again faced with the question of whether Member States, including my own country, are really prepared and able to provide personnel to enforce these regulations at the customs posts in our ports.

Which brings us to another important point, namely collection targets. These collection targets have been significantly increased. Sweden manages to collect 16 kg while one wonderful country to the south with a city with which I share my name collects a paltry three kilos. On the one hand, we have a marvellous achievement and, on the other, a disaster. The collection quotas in many of the founding Member States of the Union are 3 and 4 kg per person. This will be seen by our children as a sign of our inadequacies, because we are selling off our raw materials or sending them to the waste tip, where no one will ever be able to reach them.

Luckily, we have reached these collection targets. Unfortunately, we have had to deal with an extremely phlegmatic institution of the European Union in the Council, which has shown itself to be not particularly friendly towards Europe throughout the negotiations. Let me give you an example: if a business in Europe produces a light bulb today, then sometime in the future it is going to have to bring it for recycling. It then has to register 27 times in 27 different countries so that the recycling issue can be clarified.

This is national politics at its worst. It is astonishing that a single registration suffices when it comes to the different VAT regimes, but not recycling. This is a tragedy for the Council. It is unfortunate that the Council has had its way here and that the small and medium-sized enterprises that produce light bulbs will have to register them separately in each of the 27 Member States of the Union in future. This alone will cost EUR 60 million per year for each individual process. I consider this to be disastrous.

Although some red tape has been done away with, the Council naturally sees the money that businesses have to pay as an attractive source of income. Unfortunately, it is the Council and the Member States that have control of this money, leading to major toing and froing when a light bulb is first sold in France and then supplied to Italy through a dealer. An enormous amount of money moves around, something that could be managed much more easily through the use of modern technology.

Mr Potočnik, I am personally very grateful to you and your staff for having played such a decisive role in the process. If it were not for you, these negotiations would have failed.

The Council has behaved in a way I have not seen before in my 22 years of experience. I include my own country in this. The determination to link European environmental policy with economic criteria has declined to sorry proportions. Miserable national policies are being pursued, while we have not even managed to come up with a Europe-wide definition of the term ‘recycling’. The Member States can all do what they want.

We have started along the right path. Nonetheless, we have a lot of work to do in getting the Council to move in the right direction. To reiterate, my criticisms are directed at everyone, not just one individual. Thank you very much for your patience.

 
  
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  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. Mr President, honourable Members of Parliament, we have two important issues today on the agenda, one of course connected to the WEEE.

I would first of all like to congratulate the European Parliament, and in particular the rapporteur, Mr Florenz, and the shadows and their teams for the success achieved in the negotiations on the Directive on Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment.

Parliament and the Commission have been standing side by side in this debate, fighting for ambitious collection targets for e-waste to increase resource efficiency, fighting for a clear reduction of administrative burdens and fighting to give the Member States’ enforcement authorities an effective tool against illegal exports. By and large we have succeeded together. I am satisfied that the proposed directive as it is now on the table goes a long way towards meeting the objectives that the Commission set out to achieve with our proposal.

Of course, I would like to move towards these improvements more quickly and also further, as Mr Florenz mentioned, and I am sure many of you would too. But this directive clearly puts a new momentum and new dynamic into management of e-waste and it deserves our support.

Just to give you an idea of what level of improvement this directive will bring compared to the existing directive, let us do a quick calculation. The current collection target for WEEE is four kilos per capita per year in each Member State. With 500 million citizens in the European Union, that means that Member States are obliged to collect around two million tonnes of e-waste out of 10 million tonnes of e-waste we generate every year. That is about 20%. In fact they collect rather more because some of the countries are overshooting that target.

The new directive will oblige the Member States to collect the equivalent of at least 85% of e-waste generated, so by 2020, when we estimate that Europeans will be throwing away 12 million tonnes a year, we should be collecting at least 10 million tonnes of WEEE. Ten million tonnes including lead, PVC, chromium, mercury and cadmium that will then be treated in an environmentally sound manner; 10 million tonnes including gold, copper, silver and platinum and other valuable raw materials that can be pumped back into the production cycle, reducing production costs and also emissions. This calculation is perhaps not very scientific, but it nevertheless shows that we have taken a truly big step forward from the current WEEE directive.

Separate collection of WEEE is essential to making recycling profitable. Proper treatment is crucial to ensure that harm to the environment and human health is prevented.

We are highly concerned at the environmental and human health cost of smash-and-burn methods used in some third countries. Legal and legitimate exports of used equipment declared to be for refurbishment have in the past been abused to cover up illegal exports of what was in fact treated as waste and was in quite poor condition. The Commission will therefore continue to work in international forums to prevent legal channels for exports of used equipment being abused for illegal waste shipments.

I can say today that the Commission can accept the text negotiated between the institutions and will do its best to ensure smooth and full implementation after adoption by Parliament and the Council.

The Commission will make a number of declarations to accompany this adoption, which I will briefly summarise. Firstly, concerning product design: the Commission will assess the feasibility of introducing the respective requirements when adopting implementing measures pursuant to the eco-design directive.

Secondly, we will state that transitional arrangements for Member States with difficulties meeting the new collection targets must be limited to exceptional circumstances. The difficulties faced and the specific circumstances on which they are based must be objective, well documented and also verifiable.

Thirdly, where nanomaterials are mentioned in the text, the Commission understands them to be those falling under the definition of nanomaterials set out in the Commission recommendation. Potential risks posed by such nanomaterials would be identified with tools available under the appropriate legislation for this purpose.

Fourthly, the Commission considers that to be consistent with the Treaty, the powers conferred on it to establish methodologies for calculating the amount of electronic and electrical equipment put on the market and the amount of WEEE, and to set additional rules on inspections and monitoring in Article 7 (5) and 23 (4), should be delegated powers. The Commission therefore informs Parliament that it reserves the right to pursue the legal remedies provided by the Treaty with a view to seeking clarification from the Court of Justice.

Finally, the Commission will also make a declaration on the procedure for adoption of implementing acts.

Used electric and electronic equipment is the fastest-growing waste stream and one that contains valuable materials and rare metals worth recycling into new products. Nowhere is it more clear that waste really is a resource and therefore crucial in achieving a resource-efficient, competitive economy.

Yes, you have heard well. It is not only a question of environmental preservation; it is also one of the central questions of the competitiveness of European industry in the future.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I would like to express my thanks to Karl-Heinz Florenz and the Commission for the work they have done. As we know, this is a new version of the directive that came into force on 13 February 2003, in other words almost 10 years ago. Unfortunately we have actually achieved very little to date if we look at the EU averages.

Mr Florenz mentioned a few figures from various Member States and, as has been said, the differences are extreme. Let me quote some examples: Romania has collected 0.8 kg and Liechtenstein, which is not a Member State but which is not performing particularly well, 1.4 kg – while Germany has collected 7.8 kg, the Czech Republic 4.3 kg and the countries of Northern Europe have achieved great successes. We need to be clear about one thing: if we are not capable of establishing a recycling system in our economy, then we will come unstuck in the long term, because the earth only has a finite supply of raw materials.

For this reason I believe that the statement the Commissioner has now made represents a decisive point because it indicates that ecological design must also include reuse, in other words the time after the product has been used, in the design phase.

The old directive contained a number of weaknesses. These included the fact that there was no link to the Eco-design Directive. Of course, the rigid collection target of 4 kg is not appropriate to economic development in the various Member States, either. The current approach as set down in the new proposal makes far more sense, involving targets of 65% of the goods brought into circulation and 85% of the WEEE produced after the transitional phase.

The abilities of the Member States to develop efficient collecting systems will also be of decisive importance, however. A lot will also depend on the dexterity of the Member States in lending a helping hand to consumers. Here too, the role of the consumers is vitally important in taking matters into their own hands. Door-to-door collections are not the answer.

On the whole, it will be a matter for the Member States to decide how to implement this system. I have faith in the Commission to monitor performance closely, so that these collection targets are met. In the long term, this is our only chance to provide these vital resources for industry and to maintain the environment in the state we need.

 
  
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  Kathleen Van Brempt, on behalf of the S&D Group. (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, William Painter was the inventor of the crown cap and, at the end of the nineteenth century, he told his friend and colleague, King Camp Gillette – I assume he is the one who manufactured those razor blades – something to this effect: ‘If you really want to get rich, then you have to make products that people throw away’. I believe that the two gentlemen failed to realise at that moment that this was the beginning of what we now know as the throwaway society, for a long time a symbol of our progress, but today, in reality, a huge, huge problem.

When the directive came out for the first time in 2003, we turned our attention – rightly, because these things are still very important – to the problems that that throwaway society poses to our environment, air quality and soil quality and the social consequences of the poor dismantling and recycling of such electronic waste in developing countries. Allow me to reiterate that these remain very important arguments. However, as the Commissioner said, there is, of course, one further, additional issue, in particular the issue of the noble metals, those important raw materials used in our mobile phones and other electronic products.

As a result, during this recast, we have received enormous support from a particular segment of the industry. Support, ladies and gentlemen – and the rapporteur has already referred to this – that we have also received from the Commission, but unfortunately not from the Council, which, for one reason or another, is still in the frame of mind where it thinks that rules are not a good thing. Well, in this case, the rules are not only good, but they are also very much necessary, if we are to achieve our targets. Ambitious recycling targets, extremely robust rules for export and making sure that small products, in particular – for instance, our mobile phones, where we keep a lot of important information – comply with the more ambitious targets.

Finally, I would like to sincerely thank the rapporteur – and I do so with a great deal of conviction – because it is under her able leadership and thanks to her experience that we have nevertheless been able to push through Parliament’s strong position as far as possible. However, as I said just now, the Council actually seems to be on totally the wrong wavelength. That is also the reason why I, together with my group, will definitely and with great conviction vote for this result tomorrow.

 
  
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  Vladko Todorov Panayotov, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (BG) Mr President, after touch and lengthy negotiations between the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament delegation, an agreement was reached on the new Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment.

I would like, at this point, to express my gratitude to Commissioner Potočnik for his excellent assistance and cooperation, as well as to the rapporteur Karl-Heinz Florenz, who demonstrated strong leadership and contributed to Parliament’s general strong stance and the final positive outcome. The new, better directive means that we can set the terms for more efficient, better quality recycling of electronic and electrical waste.

As you are aware, until now only 30% of this waste has been processed in accordance with the directive’s standards. The remaining 70% either ended up in rubbish dumps or was illegally exported outside the European Union, which means a significant loss of valuable raw materials for all of us. The new directive will create conditions for establishing a new common European market for collecting and processing electronic and electrical waste.

An open scope is envisaged for the directive, which means that six years after it comes into force, in 2018, all electronic and electrical waste will come under the scope of this directive. A new, more ambitious waste collection target will come into force after 2019, when we will collect 65% of all electronic and electrical waste from devices placed on the market.

Another new feature which will greatly help increase the volumes recycled and favour a more efficient raw materials policy is the obligation on sales outlets with an area of more than 400 square metres to accept small electrical appliances and electronic devices from consumers. Ladies and gentlemen, I sincerely believe in the attributes of the new directive. I think that this is a great joint success for us and I believe that this is a success for all Europeans and their future benefit.

 
  
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  Michail Tremopoulos, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are a step away from an important agreement to improve the management of waste electrical and electronic equipment. Following an arduous consultation procedure with the Commission and the Council, we have arrived at a compromise text which we, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, support. It is not a radical approach to the issue, but it is certainly an important step.

As the Group of the Greens, we pushed, in particular, for collection targets to be increased and calculated on the basis of the waste produced, for distributors to be forced to collect waste electrical and electronic equipment without any obligation to buy it from the consumer and for stricter controls of such waste to be introduced in terms of reuse and exportation to non-OECD countries.

We were the only group to make proposals on nanomaterials. We did not manage to squeeze a commitment out of manufacturers to state that waste electrical and electronic equipment contains nanomaterials, but we did manage to persuade the Commission to evaluate if selective treatment of nanomaterials in such waste is necessary.

I trust that Parliament will cast a positive vote and, of course, will deal with low collection rates, improvements to management and treatment and controls of illegal exports of waste electrical and electronic equipment to third countries.

 
  
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  Julie Girling, on behalf of the ECR Group. Mr President, may I say how nice it is to see you back in the Chair again this week.

In my view, this recast was proposed by the Commission as a consequence of failure – the failure by Member States to put in place effective recycling systems for electrical equipment in the 2003-2008 period – because in 2008 over 70% of waste electronics was still being landfilled, incinerated or illegally exported. That simply was not good enough. We all agreed on that. It was interesting to hear how much the Greens have apparently put into this, but I would like to lay its success clearly at the door of Karl-Heinz Florenz, the rapporteur, who worked so hard on getting a good solution.

So now we have some changes. They are mostly welcome, but we do need to make sure that they will contribute to improving the situation. Collection targets have been considerably adjusted, both in their methodology and their ambition. Some Member States have been given more time. I approve of that because, if we want to work with them, they need to build effective systems.

I am happy that Member States have retained significant control over many aspects – particularly financial – and especially welcome the fact that we have avoided any attempts at compulsory increases in costs for municipalities. But with this flexibility comes responsibility for Member States. I believe that consumers want to be able to recycle and reuse effectively, particularly in this challenging economic environment, so they must have the information and the opportunity to do so. Member States now have a flexible framework that we have worked very hard to deliver. The ball is now in their court to deliver their side.

 
  
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  Sabine Wils, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Mr President, the Member States and the industrialised nations have been living beyond their means for many years. It is nothing new when I tell you that we can only enjoy a lifestyle like this at the expense of the poorer countries of the world. The WEEE Directive addresses at least part of the problem. The open area of application is of decisive importance. This approach can and should set an example in terms of environmental legislation.

I am pleased that a collection target of 85% has been set, particularly because the Council held out stubbornly for lower targets for a long time. I constantly find myself saying: Parliament needs to flex its muscles. After all, people will only invest in environmentally-friendly technologies and innovation will only be encouraged if legislators speed up their work.

With this in mind, I also welcome the fact that solar modules are not to be excluded from the directive. It was right not to rely on a voluntary, self-imposed commitment by the manufacturers. All too often in the past, Parliament has bowed to pressure and given in to such deals. These deals have also often proven to be just another way for the industry to drag its heels.

Nonetheless, I do not agree with the way the directive deals with nanomaterials. It is essential that waste equipment containing nanomaterials should be dealt with separately. The report simply invites the Commission to investigate whether this is to continue to happen in the future, however. This is an extraordinarily weak formulation that is not worth a great deal. Nanomaterials can be hazardous for people and the environment during the recycling process. Some nanomaterials come with clear indicators stating that they are damaging to health. I am therefore calling on the Commission to subject nanomaterials to a detailed investigation. If it is not possible to prove conclusively that these products are not hazardous, then they should not be allowed onto the market.

Overall, however, I am satisfied with the results in this context. The perseverance of Parliament in its negotiations with the Council has paid off. I should also like to thank the rapporteur for this.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the directive requires Member States to carry out separate collection of electrical and electronic equipment waste and sets collection and recycling targets.

The agreement reached with the Council focuses on reducing the administration costs to manufacturers of the registration and reporting procedures. It has raised the recycling target by 5% and set the collection rate at 65% by the end of 2016, with mandatory collection of small equipment by retailers, luckily only for outlets with a surface area of more than 400 square metres.

I am in favour of the text, which is the result of a compromise that takes national requirements into account and safeguards small manufacturers, as at an earlier stage of the discussions mandatory collection also applied to smaller shops. It is crucial for the success of the new collection system that Member States no longer allow unauthorised collectors to receive domestic appliances that no longer work, as these would no longer be part of official recycling calculations.

 
  
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  Elisabetta Gardini (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are undoubtedly talking about a highly sensitive and important issue.

As Mr Florenz pointed out, when we talk about waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), we are talking about dangerous pollutants that endanger both the environment and human health, and we are also talking about an extraordinary opportunity for recycling raw materials which, as we know, Europe desperately needs. These are precious metals and rare earths, such as indium, which costs thousands of euros a kilo.

However, I wanted to respond to what Mr Florenz said, because he made a reference to my country. While it is true that it is not at the levels of northern Europe where WEEE recycling is already well-established, it is also true that it has made extraordinary progress in the last few years and that there are vast differences within the country, because in northern Italy we have very high collection levels.

In my region, the Veneto, for example, which is in third place, we already have a substantial collection that exceeds 5-5.41 kilos, and peaks of excellence such as Belluno, with 7.36 kilos, while Emilia Romagna, for example, serves 100% of its citizens and therefore has total coverage. This trend is very positive, rising 27% in the last year.

Therefore I believe we must consider what has been done thus far as an achievement and appreciate that we are on the right track. We need to launch a large-scale information campaign for citizens. Essentially we need to reinforce all the existing structures, and maybe also to update the figures as these might not have kept up with the rapid pace of improvement.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D). (RO) Mr President, waste electrical and electronic equipment is a source of household waste which is seeing one of the fastest growth rates, while also being one of the most dangerous. The majority of this waste is not managed properly and ends up in landfills, thereby discharging toxic chemicals into the environment.

I therefore welcome the proposal from the Commission for improving and increasing collection. However, as in other areas, the situation on the ground differs hugely from one Member State to another, which must be taken into consideration so that the legislation is effective and easy to apply.

In Romania the electrical goods market is not yet saturated. In other words, we are not throwing away yet as many electrical and electronic goods as other Member States. It would therefore be important for us to have more time available to adapt to the ambitious targets set by the new regulations. The gradual rise in collection rates in the next seven years, which has been established as part of this package, partially provides us with the flexibility we need.

In overall conclusion, the compromise that has been reached strikes a balance between the ambitious nature of the targets set and a realistic deadline allowing them to be achieved. I wish to thank the rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs for the work they did and the results they achieved during what were extremely tough negotiations with the Council.

 
  
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  Peter Liese (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would also like to congratulate Karl-Heinz Florenz on his success. This was a truly Herculean task. He and the committee have worked on this topic for over three years.

I do not wish to repeat what many of my fellow Members have said, but instead would emphasise one small aspect that is very important for the public. I am talking about energy-saving bulbs. Energy-saving bulbs make sense and use 80% less electricity than conventional incandescent bulbs. However, they contain rare earths that need to be recovered, as well as a small amount of mercury. They contain 200 times less mercury than the thermometers that were still in common use up to a few years ago. This mercury needs to be disposed of correctly, however.

We have given citizens little guidance in this area in recent times. I experienced this myself in the town where I come from: I wanted to dispose of some small items of electrical equipment, but I was told: you need to take that to the recycling centre outside town. It is open every Tuesday until 15.30. Is there anyone in regular employment who would have time before 15.30 on a Tuesday? The service must be made more user-friendly. That is why I have drawn up an amendment with some of my colleagues, requiring that energy-saving bulbs and other small items of electrical equipment should be returned to the shop. Alternatively, a different, user-friendly solution must be found. I am grateful to Mr Florenz and the shadow rapporteurs for having pushed this amendment through. This is a signal to the public that we take their problems seriously, that we include them in our deliberations, and that we want to make it easy for them to return such equipment, so that it can be disposed of correctly.

 
  
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  Judith A. Merkies (S&D). - (NL) Mr President, may I, first of all, pay my compliments to the rapporteur, who has done an excellent job. His task was certainly not an easy one. The fact is that we literally have gold lying in the streets. We are actually throwing precious metals away, even though we can really no longer afford to do this, at this time of crisis.

Modern products – as we have already heard: not only mobile phones, but also printed circuit boards and, actually, all modern electrical and electronic equipment – are packed with all kinds of stuff that we want to get back. This is what we have addressed in the directive. It deals mainly with collection, but it should not just be about collection, because if a butcher takes apart a mobile phone, he will not be as skilled at it as a specialist.

Therefore, this is ultimately not just about collecting electrical and electronic equipment. We also have to ask ourselves if we really want to recover the materials that we are interested in from that particular piece of equipment. For that reason, when you talk about collection, you also have to look at reuse, dismantling, pre-processing, recycling and remelting. In addition, we need to look at recovering as much as we can and recovering the best quality resources, instead of just recovering what is easiest to recover. Because we all know that this equipment will very soon be dumped across the border, and that will be harmful to the environment and we will not even have managed to recover the materials that we want from it.

 
  
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  Jolanta Emilia Hibner (PPE). (PL) Mr President, first of all I would like to thank our colleague Karl-Heinz Florenz who really did an amazing job. The work on this report required extraordinary diligence, and many meetings and consultations with various stakeholders. Unfortunately we have different opinions on this subject, but most of us strive to achieve the same goal: to reduce the quantity of waste electric and electronic equipment. At the moment this document is of crucial importance, because we are talking about wanting to save resources, whilst using waste, namely waste from electric and electronic equipment.

We have difficulties, in Europe, in finding raw materials to produce electronic equipment. Here is a hint: we can actually move forward because those raw materials are in our waste. We must not disregard this waste. The volume of waste should be reduced by recycling. It is also very important to extend the life of equipment. Currently we use equipment for a very short period and often novelty causes us to replace it quickly.

We should also replicate the best practices in operation in Europe, identifying the relevant country and model. One last thing - penalties are a last resort in law enforcement. Let us first show that there are good models and implement them.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, for far too long Europeans have generated waste with no or little concern about end-of-life recycling. Even now too few citizens instinctively deal with their waste electrical and electronic equipment. For example, last weekend, when I wanted to return a power strip to my local DIY store, the salesman did not have a clue what he was supposed to do with it. Fortunately, his supervisor told him that, in his shop, there was actually a collection point available to customers, which he only found out about at the same time as me. There is still a long way to go in this area.

As we have already said, currently only 33% of waste electrical and electronic equipment is collected and treated appropriately.

I will therefore be voting in favour of the text negotiated fiercely by Karl-Heinz Florenz, and I congratulate him for the outstanding work he has done throughout recent months. I congratulate him because he has set each Member State a target collection rate, by 2016, of 85% of waste electrical and electronic generated by their country. Above all, he gives them the resources to achieve this through increasing the number of collection points for this type of waste and reaffirming the principle of free waste disposal.

This directive will allow progress to be made in terms of collection. It will support and reinforce a gradual change of behaviour in European citizens.

Get sorting citizens of Europe! It does not cost anything, it is good for the planet and good for future generations.

I take this opportunity, Mr President, to congratulate you on your election and ask you to make your contribution to energy efficiency by trying to raise the temperature in here but use less air conditioning. It is cold in this Chamber and, for the sake of energy efficiency, it would be better to alter the temperature settings.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE).(SK) Mr President, I would like first to congratulate our colleague Karl-Heinz Florenz, and he is not a member of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance. We see that the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) can also do tremendous work in this field.

Improperly treated or even untreated waste from electrical and electronic equipment is a significant threat for the environment and the health of people living in the European Union. The rapidly increasing volumes of this type of waste require a speedy response in the form of the adoption of modern and responsible legislation that will encourage more separate collection and recycling. I firmly believe that it is essential that the EU and Member States give clear guidance to companies so that they manage resources better, including by recovering discarded but still usable equipment or their component parts. Sustainable production is closely related to the development of innovations and intelligent recovery of the resources already available.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ANNI PODIMATA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Madam President, waste electrical and electronic equipment is the form of waste with the fastest growth potential in the EU, estimated to reach 12.3 million tonnes by 2020.

I welcome the reform of the Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment and emphasise the need for investment in recycling raw materials and rare earths since the mining, refining and recycling of rare earths have serious consequences for the environment if they are not managed properly.

Failure to comply with the appropriate procedures when treating waste electrical and electronic equipment causes damage to the environment, especially through the discharge of heavy metals such as mercury from compact fluorescent lamps and flat screens, and lead from television sets.

According to the Commission, only 33% of waste electrical and electronic equipment is officially collected separately, with the possibility of a large amount of this material, which has been collected and not declared, being treated in the EU without suitable environmental protection, or sent illegally to developing countries where certain valuable materials are recycled in a manner that is hazardous to health and the environment, or else dumped.

 
  
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  Catherine Bearder (ALDE). - Madam President, Europe is still dumping on its neighbours despite all our present laws and regulations.

Too much of our waste is ending up polluting the lives of Africans. This is a very toxic waste stream pouring out of Europe. It is immoral on two fronts, financial and environmental: financial because much of the minerals and chemicals we export have been imported into Europe and we have paid good money for them – we are wasting what could and should be used again – but also environmental because these countries cannot deal with our waste. Through the burning and physical handling of this toxic waste, vast natural areas, as well as men, women and children, are polluted and chemically burned.

These renewed proposals are much overdue – and I thank the rapporteur – but they will be worthless unless we enforce their provisions in every Member State and stop the exports now. We owe this to ourselves and to our currently abused neighbours.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE). (PL) Madam President, new rules focusing on selective collection of waste will facilitate its management, the recycling of raw materials and also of equipment. The new method of collection calculation will be introduced gradually, which is important, since it allows individual countries to adapt to the changes. I believe the introduction in large retail stores of free collection points for used equipment is a great success, as has already been mentioned. This is without a doubt one of the strong points of the new regulation. It is axiomatic and good that this principle has finally been settled. I think the compromise negotiated by Parliament and the Polish Presidency is balanced. The changes will contribute to raising the level of environmental protection and human health. Manufacturers will also benefit from these. By limiting bureaucracy big savings will be made possible.

 
  
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  Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE). - (NL) Madam President, it is the beginning of January and the season has just started. The season when companies publish their annual figures for the year just past and their expectations for the coming year. We all know that these will be poor. They will be disappointing. Of course, we have the economic crisis, high unemployment and disappointing sales to blame for this.

However, I will tell you a secret. The explosive increase in the cost of raw materials will be reflected in almost all of these corporate figures. These materials have gone up in price by dozens of percentage points in recent years. That will have a lasting impact on the European economy. That is also the essence of the directive that we are discussing today. Because we are throwing away hundreds of kilos of gold, silver, platinum and cobalt without reusing them. The Council ought to give this issue top priority. Unfortunately, the Council seems to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. This is very similar to the way in which it has been tackling the euro crisis.

Madam President, I would, nonetheless, like to thank the Commission, together with Mr Florenz as rapporteur, for having done an excellent job of ensuring a good compromise but, ultimately, the compromise is still not what we need if we are really to have a Europe that deals efficiently with its resources.

 
  
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  Åsa Westlund (S&D).(SV) Madam President, it makes me happy and proud when the European Parliament succeeds in pushing for a greener end result than that proposed by the Commission or wanted by the Member States. That is the case where this report is concerned, and it is also the case with regard to the legislation that we are to debate later on.

I am very pleased that we are introducing tougher recycling requirements, as I truly believe that this is needed in order to urge the countries to introduce effective recycling systems. Citizens want to recycle more, but it is far too complicated at present. I think it is good that we are tightening up the rules and making it more difficult to export electronic waste, because, as we have heard here, this is a very bad way to influence development in Africa and other poor countries, which are currently forced to deal with our hazardous waste.

I think that it would have been even better if we could have already had separate targets for small electronic devices that are quite easy to collect. However, there is a risk that this will not be done if we do not have separate targets. I hope that the Commission will present a sound proposal in this regard very soon.

 
  
 

(End of the ‘catch the eye’ procedure)

 
  
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  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. Madam President, two short answers, and a little bit longer one, about the past and the things with which we are dealing today.

Firstly, on the differences in the Member States, it is true that the challenges they are facing are huge, but it is an absolute fact that the opportunities which they have – especially those countries which are on the lower level – are also huge. They will have to take that on board.

Secondly, on nano-materials, I have stated clearly that they do deserve special attention, and they will have special attention, under the appropriate legislation. This is an issue to which quite a lot of attention is being awarded, including inside the Commission.

Finally, about the past and why I have said that the environment and business are both under consideration today. I do consider this past – which we have tried to address in the best way through the roadmap to resource efficiency – as one of the most central stories of today’s European future.

Many countries in Europe today are indebted. If we want a proper answer, we will not have it without stimulating growth. If we want to address the issue of growth properly, then we will have to focus on the competitiveness of the European Union. So the competitiveness of the European Union is a real problem. These things which we are proposing – better use of resources, a more intelligent use of resources – are the central issue leading out of the problems which we have. I hope we will understand that. As mentioned by Mr Gerbrandy, the prices of these resources are increasing extremely fast. This is a totally different trend than that in the 20th century, when the composite prices of raw materials fell constantly, except during World War One and World War Two and the oil crisis.

In the first decade of the 21st century, it is just the opposite. If you take into account that Europe is extremely import-dependent, and if you take into account that, in the cost structure, this accounts for much more than the labour, then what is actually happening in the companies is logical. They are refocusing from innovating in the area of labour incentives and labour productivity to productivity which is connected to the resources.

This is the past we are talking about. We are talking about something which is a central piece of the problem that Europe, in the financial and economic crisis, is today talking about.

So what we will hopefully vote for when we adopt the new WEEE legislation is one of the central pieces of that past, which will give the right part of industry, which is forward-looking, a clear signal and clear incentives that this is the way we want to go and that this is what we are talking about today. That is why I am extremely happy that the target which was set quite high has remained unchanged.

Finally, I would like to thank sincerely Parliament as a whole, but especially Karl-Heinz Florenz. It was really enjoyable to work with him, because his skills and also his understanding of the problem really gave us the opportunity to work hand-in-hand.

 
  
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  Karl-Heinz Florenz, rapporteur. – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, you have, I believe, just hit the nail on the head, in that we all recognise that we are capable of starting a third industrial revolution in Europe if we truly understand that we need to see sustainability as an industrial opportunity.

You also mentioned resources and that reminded me of something that I completely forgot about today. I completely forgot about the human resources in my office. Ms Philipp, if I may say so, you have worked extremely hard on this with marvellous results. You played an absolutely key role in this matter. For that, I would very much like to thank you.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place at 12:00 noon on Thursday, 19 January 2012.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  János Áder (PPE), in writing.(HU) I would first of all like to congratulate the rapporteur on the successful negotiations, thanks to which a crucial directive on European resource efficiency has been adopted. We are all aware of the fact that as the quantity of our waste electronic equipment rises year by year Europe is faced by a myriad challenges. Unprofessional collection and treatment not only entail serious health and environmental implications, but in carelessly letting such equipment ‘go to waste’ Europe is also losing valuable raw materials in an increasingly intense global competition for resources. The current recast of the Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment provides a suitable framework for addressing these challenges. Indeed, the compromise reached stipulates for Member States collection targets which are not only ambitious, but also take account of the consumption habits of the various countries. In Eastern Europe, for example, there is a smaller chance of consumers replacing their household appliances within three to four years after their purchase, and will rather continue to use their old devices in their holiday houses. With its four kilograms per capita per year target, the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the previous directive was unable to address such market specificities. One of the most important aspects of the present agreement is therefore that, depending on a Member State’s choice, the amount of products introduced to the market or the amount of waste products actually generated can be used as the basis for the calculation of collection targets in the future. This option makes the achievement of the objectives of the directive realistic and it can thereby make an actual contribution to increasing European resource efficiency.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (ALDE), in writing.(GA) Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) generates 9-10 million tonnes of waste each year in the EU and it is estimated will reach 12-13 million tonnes by 2020. WEEE that has not been properly treated poses a significant danger to health and to the environment and can contain hazardous material, such as mercury (in switches), lead (in solder) or cadmium (in batteries). Under the EU’s 2020 strategy, the EU is determined to improve the recycling and reuse rates of WEEE and to tackle the expending of resources. I welcome the directive’s strong measures, especially the provisions that say that it should be easier for consumers to have access to WEEE facilities and that free WEEE recycling facilities should be made available in any sales centre larger than 400 square metres. That would put extra pressure on producers and on small businesses, and therefore, I support the report’s recommendations in relation to simplified reporting responsibilities and measures to prevent the implementation of double-costing of fees for producers, who are responsible for waste management costs.

 
  
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  Rovana Plumb (S&D), in writing.(RO) I congratulate the rapporteur and all those involved in achieving political agreement on this extremely important dossier. I think that the recent debate on this report is our message, the message of politicians to the 11th Electronic Recycling Congress, which takes place 18-20 January 2012 in Salzburg, Austria.

I support two important aspects of the directive:

extending responsibility for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) management to the manufacturer, which will protect the environment, with the aim of increasing resource efficiency and creating green jobs;

making provision for creating areas in large warehouses for accepting small devices without the obligation to buy another new one in return, in order to support citizens and the local authorities and encourage them to take an active part in collecting the required volumes stipulated by the directive.

 
  
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  Vladimir Urutchev (PPE), in writing.(BG) Almost without exception, our society prefers to dump all its waste, including items containing valuable rare materials, which our industry finds increasingly difficult to provide for itself. Barely one third of electronic and electrical waste is processed according to requirements, with the remainder bound for landfills or illegally exported to third countries.

The new directive marks an important step forward towards a more extensive recovery of this waste, because it sets high targets: 85% of generated electronic waste (or 65% of electronic equipment placed on the market) must be collected through an organised scheme by the end of the decade. Requirements are being introduced for drawing up standards for the collection, processing, recovery, recycling and reuse of such waste, by which means the same hi-tech requirements are to be established in Member States.

One very important aspect is the electronic waste collection schemes, especially the possibility for electronic equipment businesses with an area of more than 400 m2 to take back small waste electronic equipment, which may actually increase the level of organised collection. The new directive’s complete entry into force is envisaged after a six-year transition period. However, by that date all electronic waste will, in theory, come under its scope, which will eliminate both potential environmental threats and the waste of a genuine, rare resource.

 
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