European Commission Takes Germany To Court For E-Waste Failings

Following the referrals of Slovenia and Poland to Court on similar grounds, the European Commission is now referring Germany to the EU Court of Justice over its failure to transpose EU legislation on the recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment (known also as WEEE Directive) and communicate the national transposition measures.

The EU rules, which should have been enacted into national law by 14 February 2014, are intended to prevent or reduce the negative environmental impact from this fast-increasing waste stream. The rules are based on a revision of the previous WEEE Directive, and they incorporate a number of new or substantially modified provisions, none of which have yet been transposed by Germany.

The Commission is asking the Court to impose a penalty payment on Germany in the amount of EUR 210 078 per day until the law is enacted.

The revised Directive modernises previous legislation, making it fit for purpose and more forward-looking. It introduces an ambitious new collection target of 45% of electronic equipment sold that will have to be met in 2016 and, as a second step in 2019, a target of 65% of equipment sold or 85% of WEEE generated.

“The Commission is asking the Court to impose a penalty payment on Germany in the amount of EUR 210 078 per day until the law is enacted”

The new rules make registration and reporting requirements easier for Member States, with better tools to fight the illegal export of waste more effectively. They also introduce a clear link to EU legislation on product design, including the Eco-design Directive, encouraging manufacturers to improve the design of electrical and electronic equipment, making it easier to recycle.

Under Article 260(3) TFEU if a Member State fails to transpose an EU legislative Directive into national law within the required deadline, the Commission may ask the Court to impose financial sanctions at the first referral to Court, without having to return to the Court for a second ruling.

The penalties take into account the seriousness and duration of the infringement. In the present case, they consist of daily penalty payments proposed to be paid from the date of the judgment – assuming the Member State is still not compliant – until the transposition process is completed.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) such as computers, TV sets, fridges, and cell phones is one the fastest growing waste streams in the EU, with some 9m tonnes generated in 2005, and expected to grow to more than 12 million tonnes by 2020.

WEEE is a complex mixture of materials and components that can cause major environmental and health problems if not properly managed. Producing modern electronics requires the use of scarce and expensive resources (eg around 10% of total gold worldwide is used for their production), so recycling them has obvious advantages.

To address these problems two pieces of legislation have been put in place: the WEEE Directive and the Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS Directive).


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