Royal Decree to improve end-of-life battery, accumulator, and WEEE management

In a meeting held yesterday, the Spanish Cabinet, on the proposal of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO), passed a Royal Decree to improve the management of end-of-life batteries, accumulators and electrical and electronic equipment. The new legislation reforms the 2008 Royal Decree on batteries and accumulators, and the environmental management of associated waste, and the 2015 Royal Decree on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment.

The new legislation incorporates the reforms introduced in 2018 by EU Directives governing both waste streams, particularly the obligation to implement economic instruments for the application of the waste hierarchy in the management of this waste.

Regarding waste batteries and accumulators, the most significant change is that waste containing substances such as lithium or nickel-metal hydride will have a specific hazardous waste classification, thus ensuring that it is managed accordingly.   

With respect to waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), the scope of application of the legislation is clarified to reflect the fact that, since August 2018, it is applicable to all electrical and electronic equipment and not just to some categories. This will facilitate simpler classification more in line with the specific treatment requirements of each WEEE type.  

Similarly, the waste management objectives to be fulfilled by producers of electrical and electronic equipment are clearly specified. For this purpose, the weight of the WEEE collected and financed by producers subsequent to specific treatment is taken into account. The legislative text also outlines the direct responsibilities of producers and distinguishes them from others acquired through extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, without in any case extending or modifying their responsibilities.

It also permits collective EPR schemes to undertake complementary activities provided that these are financed voluntarily and only by those producers who have decided to participate in these activities.  The amount of the financial guarantee to be provided has been set at 25%, with the current guarantee of 100% of the average annual cost of WEEE management being deemed excessive.

The new legislation provides greater reliability by establishing state WEEE collection targets. Specific targets can be added for certain equipment to enable appropriate monitoring of the management of the waste produced. The Royal Decree also introduces a mechanism to make separate collection targets for WEEE categories more flexible. Lower targets can be set for WEEE categories that are more difficult to collect and higher targets for categories in which the quantity of waste is more significant. All this has been introduced without altering the state compliance target, which remains unchanged.

The new legislation improves coordination in the area of WEEE, through the WEEE working group to be set up as part of the Waste Coordination Commission. The implementation of evaluation mechanisms particularly improves the coordination of communications campaigns organised by EPR schemes. The legislation also specifies the functions of the WEEE electronic management platform and indicates more clearly the information that can be obtained through this instrument.

Finally, the Royal Decree reinforces the control of electrical and electronic equipment from third countries. The Integrated Industrial Registry reference number must now feature visibly on the documents accrediting the importation of this equipment. This area is to be controlled and supervised by the Official Service for the Inspection, Monitoring and Regulation of Exports, as set out in the provisions of the Royal Decree regulating control of the importation of certain products, in accordance with applicable rules on product safety.   

IN ALIGNMENT WITH THE EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL

The new legislation is in line with national and European environmental priorities, not only because of the importance these areas have taken on in EU policies but also because of its alignment with the European Green Deal, which includes amongst its goals the promotion, reinforcement and materialisation of the circular economy.

Added to this is the development of the circular economy principles, which have resulted in ambitious targets for the coming years, as reflected in the Spanish Circular Economy Strategy, España Circular 2030, ratified in June of last year.  

Of note is the fact that this is the fourth Royal Decree in the area of waste management to come before the Spanish Cabinet since the ratification of the Circular Economy Strategy. It represents a further step in the process to comprehensively overhaul waste legislation, a process which will be completed by the Waste and Contaminated Land Bill and other Royal Decrees currently being drafted.