Greenpeace reaction to Commission’s proposed revision for WEEE and RoHS Directives

Press release - December 3, 2008
Brussels, Belgium — Greenpeace applauds the European Commission’s support for an incentive to design products that are easier and cheaper to recycle in its proposal to revise the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) law. But Greenpeace condemns the Commission’s failure to extend bans on specific chemicals through the Directive on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS). The two directives (RoHS and WEEE) share a common goal: they were established to help clean up electronic products and to facilitate and increase their recycling.

In the context of the WEEE Directive, the principle of individual producer responsibility makes producers responsible for the end-of-life costs of their own electronic products. This serves as an incentive to choose durable, less toxic and recyclable materials. However, the Commission is now advocating the indefinite use of the 'visible fee' (an advance recycling fee paid by consumers). This would transfer the costs of recycling onto consumers, rather than including them in the product price.

"We are concerned that Philips is responsible for opening the discussion on the continued use of the visible fee," said Iza Kruszewska, Greenpeace International toxics campaigner. "The visible fee allows companies to off-load the costs of treating end of life products onto consumers. The visible fee must end," Kruszewska added.

With its proposal on the RoHS Directive, the Commission has missed the opportunity to immediately extend the ban on the use of certain hazardous chemicals.

"If we are serious about increasing the recycling of electronic waste, we need to recycle the plastics and other materials in electronic products. This can only be done by eliminating the use of contaminants like brominated flame-retardants and PVC plastic. Both contribute to harmful dioxin proliferation worldwide when electronics are burned," said Kruszewska.

Greenpeace calls on the Commission to ensure that substances that hamper the recycling of e-waste are removed from electronics, as these can be significant sources of toxic chemicals. Most of the suppliers of components and materials to the electronics sector already have safer substitutes of PVC plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Intel, Tyco, Foxcon, Nan Ya, DSM and many other companies have informed Greenpeace that they would be ready to deliver low halogen components and materials if big brands like Apple, Dell, Lenovo, HP, Toshiba, Acer and Asus respected their public commitment to phase out all BFRs and PVC from their products by 2009.

"In failing to propose new substances to be banned by RoHS, the Commission is making this law irrelevant," said Kruszewska. "We count on the leaders of the electronics sector that have developed safer substitutes to PVC and BFRs, as well as brand owners that are committed to eliminating these substances, to make their voices heard to strengthen the RoHS Directive. Hazardous substances like brominated flame retardants must be banned."

Other contacts:

Iza Kruszewska - Greenpeace International toxics campaigner:
+ 44 20 86723454

Mark Breddy – Greenpeace communications manager:
+32 (0)2 274 1903, +32 (0)496 156 229 (mob.) .