2017 product and waste legislation taking shape amidst Brexit uncertainty

DEFRA recently confirmed it still works under the assumption that that the Circular Economy Package (CEP) will apply to the UK post-Brexit.

The UK government is planning to transpose existing pieces of EU legislation into UK law through its Great Repeal Bill. The Circular Economy Package, which includes an action plan and proposals to amend six waste directives (WEEE, Battery, Packaging and Packaging Waste, ELV, Waste Framework and Landfill), was voted on by the European Parliament ENVI committee on 24 January.

The confirmation from DEFRA came just before the news that MEPs had voted in favour of re-instating the 70% recycling and re-use target, first proposed in the (rejected) 2014 version, a significant increase from the 65% the Commission proposed in its current 2015 package.

UK Resources Minister Therese Coffey already questioned the achievability of the 65% target, and this increase is likely to be hotly debated when the proposals are presented to the European Parliament in March.

How does this affect producers?

The higher recycling and re-use target will increase pressure on governments to deal with ever-increasingly complex waste streams from households and businesses. Producers should anticipate higher compliance costs as their obligation rises in line with efforts by member states to reach the recycling target.

The UK in particular is expected to struggle, given that the current 2020 recycling target of 50% is now almost certain to be missed in view of England’s falling recycling rate.

However, the CEP also puts a renewed focus on waste prevention and re-use and repair activities through better product design (Design for Environment – DfE).

Nationally across the EU we observe a trend towards financial incentives for easier to recycle packaging or repairable EEE, and this direction is borne out by a number of new proposals the Commission released last week.

Beyond WEEE, batteries and packaging

The new legislative proposals could affect companies and their products indirectly. Here we outline the key proposals to be aware of:

RoHS 2 is set to change to encourage the second-hand market

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive is seen as a sister-legislation to the WEEE Directive, and a new proposal reviews the restrictions in light of very probable second-hand market barriers.

In particular, it will address the 'hard-stop' scenario manufacturers are faced with when RoHS 1 exempted EEE or its spare parts enter the second-hand market on, or after, they move into scope for RoHS2 in 2019.

The currently planned restrictions could hamper the repair and re-use market, and potentially increase hazardous WEEE. This newly proposed amendment to RoHS2 means companies’ secondary market operations will benefit from specific exclusions granted for repair and re-use activities. Read more here.

Strengthening consumer guarantees when buying goods online

Although 'planned obsolescence' is not specifically named, this draft legislation is likely influenced by national developments, mainly the 2014 French Consumer Code which obligates companies to provide very detailed repair and replace information to consumers in France.

This EU legislative proposal could be a step towards harmonisation of stricter rules on the lifespan of products (particularly EEE) and addresses potential compliance gaps in the growing e-commerce market.

The Eco-Design Working Plan 2016-19 is finally published

Still concentrating mainly on energy efficiency requirements, certain priority product groups have been named (ICT products, smart phones) for future measures assessing repairability, re-use and recycling possibilities.

The Commission also confirmed that it has drafted a regulation on product design and marking requirements to facilitate dismantling, re-use and recycling. Read more here.

What happens next?

The CEP is a key priority for Europe in 2017 and the Commission has just published a report on initiatives and progress of its CEP Action Plan – it again stresses the link between a Circular Economy and the potential to decrease GHG emissions, and its importance for reaching the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12: sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Meanwhile, the European Council confirmed that some aspects of the proposed waste directive amendments are agreed, but it also insists on further discussions on the overall level of ambition of the targets and how to take into account the efforts on re-use.

If approved by MEPs next month, the European Parliament, Council and Commission must work towards a common stance to finalise the package and officially publish the final text of the legislations.

Free Circular Economy Package webinar

Join us for a free webinar on The Circular Economy Package on Thursday 14 February. We’ll discuss the background and overview, provide the EU and Brexit context and more details on the recently proposed changes. There will also be a chance for you to ask our specialists any questions you may have. We hope to see you there!

In the meantime, if you have any concerns or questions please do not hesitate to contact our team on 0333 4330 370 or email info@ecosurety.com.

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