New WEEE regulation ratified to improve segregated collection and management

On February 20th, the Spanish Cabinet, on the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Affairs, ratified a Royal Decree on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. This legislation includes a series of new measures to improve segregated collection and management.

The Royal Decree transposes EU WEEE legislation (Directive 2012/19/EU of July 4th). It seeks to meet collection and management targets, stipulating the clear indication of collection points and the obligatory provision of information in this respect. It also seeks to improve control over the transfer of this type of waste to countries outside the EU.

The Royal Decree also seeks to foster prevention of WEEE and to promote treatment such as preparation for reuse to enable repaired products to be placed on the market once again. For this purpose, it sets out requirements for managers to guarantee that preparation for reuse is undertaken in an appropriate manner.

The new legislation sets specific targets for preparation for reuse, which come into effect in 2017 (2% of large household appliances and 3% of small IT and telecommunications equipment). Preparation for reuse is the preferred form of management within the waste hierarchy for the purpose of optimising the use of resources.

All this also serves to stimulate job creation in the area of WEEE repair, which enables products to be placed on the market again, thereby prolonging equipment lifecycle. The waste sector is the greatest provider of green jobs in Spain, accounting for 27% of all green jobs created. According to recent estimates, preparation for reuse of WEEE could create around 4,700 direct jobs.

The new legislation sets out the technical requirements to ensure that preparation for reuse is carried out with all the necessary guarantees to protect health, the environment and consumers of the new products.

Another new aspect of the Royal Decree is that retail outlets selling electrical and electronic equipment are now obliged to accept very small used equipment, such as as mobile telephones, free of charge and without any obligation on the consumer to purchase new equipment. This measure applies to all establishments with a surface area of more than 400 square meters.

Similarly, and for the first time, in the case of online sales of electrical and electronic equipment, consumers must also be provided with the same options to dispose of waste equipment as those provided by physical retail outlets.

The Royal Decree also includes measures to improve control and supervision by public authorities of the management of this waste and the legislation clarifies the activities of actors involved in the process and their obligations.

In this regard, the new law sets up an Electronic Platform to gather all WEEE collection and management data. This platform will be financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Affairs and the producers. The legislation also creates a Collection Assignation Office, which will be supervised by the relevant Public Administrations.

The Royal Decree sets out that meeting waste management targets will be mandatory at regional level (and not just at national level as has been the case thus far). These targets, as well as other parameters, will be set in accordance with the population of each Autonomous Community so that the regions can exercise their inspection and control competences effectively.

Lastly, the legislation introduces technical requirements so that the Autonomous Communities can provide authorisations for WEEE treatment plants, with a view to homogenising the treatment that must be carried out throughout Spanish territory.