The European legislation on waste electrical and electronic equipment, packaging and batteries has been transposed into Cypriot law and it deals with entities generating such hazardous waste in Cyprus.
The problem of waste streams in Europe
The amount of Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (the WEEE), generated every year in the European Union (EU) is increasing rapidly and it is now considered one of the fastest growing waste streams. Both primary and secondary EU law initiatives deal with the environmental impact of waste streams of packaging, electrical and electronic equipment, batteries and accumulators and tyres, with the goal to contribute to sustainable production and consumption by addressing environmental and other issues caused by the growing number of discarded electronics in the EU.
What are the relevant Directives and how were they incorporated into the Cypriot legislation?
There are three relevant EU Directives, each addressing the WEEE, batteries and packaging separately:
This Directive requires EU countries to take measures, such as national programmes, incentives through extended producer responsibility schemes and other economic instruments, to prevent the generation of packaging waste and to minimise the environmental impact of packaging. The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive was transposed into Cypriot legislation via the Packaging and Packaging Waste Law L.32(I)/2002.
Why is the WEEE Directive important?
All WEEE contains chemicals that are harmful to the environment. When WEEE is simply dumped in landfills, over time the products decay and leak toxins into the earth and into water streams. This can lead to the toxins entering our food chain and ultimately, into us.
For manufacturers and distributors of EEE the WEEE Directive provides for the designing and labelling products to facilitate recycling and reuse of components and materials, financing the collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of their products and providing free take back of WEEE.
According to the Directive, brand holders, importers and distance sellers need to register as producers and, if a company places in excess of 5 tonnes of EEE on the market every year, they must join a producer compliance scheme to finance collection, recovery and recycling. Producers are also obliged to mark products and provide information on reuse and treatment of waste products and components.
Once a member of a compliance scheme, a company is required to report EEE placed on the market and pay of fees based on their weight.
To whom do the WEEE regulations apply?
The regulations apply to businesses that use EEE that operate within a voltage range of up to 1,000 volts AC or up to 1,500 volts DC, including battery-powered products, and which fall into any of ten product categories. These range from small household appliances to medical equipment and large automatic dispensers.
Which department is responsible for the WEEE?
In the context of the above EU Directives, the Cyprus Department of Environment (the Department) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, is responsible for a variety of waste related matters such as recycling, packaging waste and hazardous waste. The Department is the responsible authority for the implementation of the WEEE Directive in Cyprus and all waste management systems.
The Department conducts regular inspections to control the implementation of environmental legislation. At the same time, it responds to requests for examination of complaints or grievances and responds quickly to issues of urgent complaints and grievances and investigates all incidents that come to its notice.
At the end of each inspection, an Inspection Report is prepared by the inspectors. Depending on the findings of the inspectorate, letters of compliance or reports are prepared and sent to the Attorney General for criminal measures. During or after the inspection, an extrajudicial arrangement may be issued by the inspectors, in accordance with the provisions of the legislation.
For the purposes of the inspections, the inspectors of the Department can seek cooperation with all other competent services and authorities, as well as the Cyprus Police.
Non-compliance with the WEEE Directive
The WEEE Directive includes provisions for fines and the possibility of prosecution for non-compliant entities.
However, conformity with the WEEE Directive’s design requirements supports product innovation and reduces costs. For instance, size and weight reduction of EEE lowers both material and weight-based compliance costs, while minimising transportation costs.
The reuse of components and recycled materials can also help save costs and mitigate risk of supply chain disruption as a result of resource scarcity.
In conclusion, although the possibility of prosecution for non-compliance with WEEE related legislation is relatively low, compliance with this legislation can enable a Company to innovate and reduce costs as well as gain access to recycling markets and related funding.
By Ms. Aikaterini Lyberi