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E-waste: EU clarifies who pays for management costs

The Council of the European Union adopted amendments to the EU law on waste from electrical and electronic equipment. In accordance with a previous decision of the EU Court of Justice, the producers are to bear the cost of waste management, still, such liability cannot be applied retroactively.

The amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (abbreviated as WEEE or e-waste) generated every year in the EU is increasing rapidly. E-waste contains a complex mix of materials, some of which are hazardous and can cause major environmental and health problems unless the disposal is managed properly. In order to tackle those challenges and provide a transparent framework for e-waste management, the European Parliament and Council adopted Directive 2002/96/EC (WEEE Directive).

The scope of the directive has been amended and extended from time to time and the EU Court of Justice ruled in its judgment of C-181/20 on the partial invalidity of the directive owing to unjustified retroactive application of extended producer responsibility to waste from photovoltaic panels placed on the market between 13 August 2005 and 13 August 2012.

The amendments to the WEEE Directive had been accepted by the Council on 4 March 2024 and clarify that the costs of the management and disposal of waste from photovoltaic panels placed on the market after 13 August 2012 are to be accounted for by the producer of such products, and also that the extended producer responsibility for EEE products that were added to the scope of the directive in 2018 should apply to those e-products that were put on the market after that date.

The amendments also introduce a review clause by which the Commission must assess, no later than 2026, the need for a revision of the directive. The new amendment will enter into force once officially published and is to become applicable as and when introduced into national laws of the Member States.