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EU Commission responds to warning over prioritizing recycling over reuse

The European Commission (EC) has responded to a warning by an industry body that a lack of clarity in the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive could divert an estimated 3.3 million ICT products to recycling rather than reuse.

Last week, MRW reported that Digital Europe (DE), which represents the digital industry in Europe, had told the EC that a technical clarification of the term ‘warranty’, regarding products sent for reuse, was necessary to alleviate the problem.

DE was concerned that member states could interpret ‘warranty’ in its narrowest sense. This would make waste shipment payments unviably expensive and force producers to send reusable products for recycling. This contradicts the EU’s waste hierarchy, which prioritises reuse over recycling.

A spokesperson for the EC told MRW that the issue will be addressed in its guidance document and FAQ on the implementation of the new WEEE Directive, which the Commission is currently preparing. The document is due to be published after the summer break.

He said: “However, the issue has been already discussed under the Basel Convention and the Commission tends to be in favour of a broader interpretation of the term ‘under warranty’.”

Valentina Bolognesi, public affairs manager of environment policy at DE, told MRW that the EC is late with the publication of the FAQ and guidance document. “This is unfortunate because many member states have already started moving into the first phase of the WEEE Recast implementation,” she said.

She called for guidance from the EC to cover the transposition period as soon as possible because the deadline to implement the new Directive’s requirements at a national level is 14 February 2014. “From a business perspective a harmonized implementation of the requirements would be ideal,” she added.

Technology manufacturer Hewlett-Packard (HP) supported the DE’s warning to the EC.

Daniel Seager, take back regulations manager EMEA at HP, told MRW: “It is positive that the EU Commission intends to provide technical clarification on the term ‘under warranty’ used in the Directive, insofar as this guidance fully addresses Digital Europe’s concerns over its members legitimate repair, refurbishment and reuse operations.”

However, he said that the FAQ is not a legally binding document and this does not mean that this guidance will be automatically adopted by each country. The industry would still need to work with individual member states to ensure that a harmonized interpretation of the term is adopted by all EU countries, he added.

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