A decision on Kyoto emissions goals is not the only thing put on hold by EU Environment Ministers during last week’s meeting of the Council of the European Union. Progress on the update of the EU’s approach to e-waste management - the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive - took another step backwards by slipping off the Council’s agenda all together.
It has since been reported that any agreement will be put on hold until 2011. The Council will only come to a decision following agreement being reached by another of the European Union’s decision-making bodies - the European Parliament - which is unlikely to occur this year.
Of course, the hope is that what comes out of the WEEE Directive update is the best legislation possible. But successive delays in the process mean that it is hard to see how seriously the issue is being taken. The passage of the proposed changes through European Parliament has already been postponed not once, but twice.
Also, some of the more demanding proposals for changes to the WEEE Directive - including a substantial increase of collection targets - will take some time to implement on a Member State level. Thus, as each decision-making step is pushed back further and further, one could be legitimately concerned about how long it will take for any positive changes to the Directive filter through from policy to practice.
While the EU seems to be twiddling its thumbs, the e-waste problem is not going away. We’re on our way to generating 12 million tonnes of the stuff, and we’re only properly treating one-third of it. The next steps in the WEEE Directive rewrite are crucial, but we need a show of will on behalf of MEPs and Environment Ministers, so that they give e-waste the attention that it deserves.
They need to approve radical changes on a number of fronts to mitigate the environmental and health risk posed by e-waste, including new, higher targets, better policing and streamlined procedures. And they need this to happen NOW, not in 2011.