What are the latest developments concerning environmental legislation globally? We’ve picked out some highlights for you for April 2022.

 

Parliament and Council adopt position on Battery Regulation

5 April 2022

 

The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have adopted their positions on the planned battery regulation, positioning themselves for the upcoming trialogue negotiations.

 

On 10 March, the Parliament voted on its first reading position on the regulation. In total, 584 parliamentarians voted in favour, 67 against and 40 abstained. The version adopted by the plenary largely coincides with the version recommended by the Environment Committee – including the proposed amendments (see article from last COMPASS).

 

Regarding waste management, the Parliament calls for an increase of the collection targets for waste portable batteries to 45% by the end of 2023, 70% by the end of 2025 and 80% by the end of 2030. The European Commission proposed collection targets of 45%, 65% and 70% respectively.

 

In addition, the Parliament calls for separate collection targets for light means of transport batteries, such as for e-scooters, and for portable batteries of general use. Moreover, collection rates are still to be calculated based on put-on-market volumes and not on volumes available for collection (AfC) – as proposed by Landbell Group company European Recycling Platform (ERP).

 

On 17 March, the Council adopted its position on the regulation at the Environment Council meeting. Regarding the collection targets for waste portable batteries, member states propose that the new targets of 45%, 65% and 70% become effective only two, six and eight years respectively after the regulation enters into force – much later than the dates proposed by the Commission.

 

However, both parties agree that the European Commission shall develop an AfC methodology , followed by a review of the targets considering the new calculation methodology.

 

On a positive note, member states followed ERP’s proposal to differentiate between authorised representatives:

 

  • EU-wide (for product design aspects considering the internal market), and
  • National (for extended producer responsibility aspects)

 

This reflects national battery waste EPR setups, which becomes even more important as the Council calls for a dual legal base.

 

The Regulation shall not provide for full harmonisation in chapter VII (End of Life), but Member States may provide for additional measures on these specific topics.

 

However, neither the Council nor the Parliament propose clauses requiring market surveillance for EPR non-compliance. This aspect seems to be missing in the Commission’s proposal. Only effective enforcement of EPR obligations would assure a level playing field.

 

With the adoption of the respective positions, the legislative process on the battery regulation is now entering its final and decisive phase: the trialogue negotiations between Parliament, Council and Commission.

 

The negotiations, which are expected to be concluded before the end of this year, will require a compromise to be found between the respective positions. The regulation can then enter into force six months later.

 

ERP is in contact with all three EU institutions and will continue to engage in the negotiations.

 

Proposal for new ecodesign rules published

 

On 30 March, together with the textiles strategy, the European Commission published its legislative proposal for the planned revision of the eco-design provisions. The regulation on eco-design and sustainable products, which is set to replace the current eco-design directive, covers products from other sectors, as well as energy-related products. In addition, the existing requirements are set to be tightened.

 

The new regulation forms the basis for establishing legal requirements for the design of products, covering durability, reusability, upgradability, reparability, the presence of substances of concern, energy and resource efficiency, the share of recycled materials, remanufacturing, high-quality recycling, as well as CO2 and environmental footprints.

 

The regulation provides much needed provisions regarding the sustainability of products. Product groups such as batteries and packaging are likely to remain exempt, as they already have their own regulations. For electrical and electronic equipment, new specifications may be implemented: for example, for reusability and reparability.

 

In the coming weeks, the Commission’s proposal will be publicly consulted. Then, the normal legislative procedure in the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union will begin.

 

European Commission presents textile strategy

 

On 30 March, the European Commission released a strategy paper on how to improve circularity in the textile sector. The measures outlined in the paper are intended to help strengthen the market for sustainable textiles in Europe and reduce their ecological and social footprint.

 

According to the strategy, textiles should be designed in a way that they are more durable, more recyclable and easier to reuse and repair. This, in turn, is intended to reduce resource consumption, extend the lifetime of textiles, and promote the recovery of valuable materials. The strategy also contains measures to improve working conditions in the production of textiles.

 

The Commission is also proposing harmonised EU extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules for textiles with eco-modulation as a key measure. This shall be addressed in line with the forthcoming revision of the Waste Framework Directive in 2023 which emphasises the potential of EPR to play an important role in improving the management of end-of-life textiles and reducing waste generation (see also article in the Circular Economy Update for more information).

 

Corresponding legislative measures could follow next year.

 

Updates on modulated fees

 

The modulation of fees remains an important issue in the United Kingdom – even though the country is no longer part of the European Union. The UK Department of the Environment (Defra) is considering introducing this instrument as part of the upcoming review of legislation for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

 

Consultancy DSS (formerly Sofies) has been appointed to come up with a corresponding proposal, building on the preparatory work it has done for the European Union. Landbell Group company ERP UK, as the operator of one of the largest WEEE takeback schemes in the UK, has been invited to participate in the process through a series of stakeholder workshops. A public consultation on the proposals is expected for the summer.

 

At EU level, the debate is ongoing on how to design the requirements for modulated fees. Landbell Group has recently commissioned two scientific studies on this topic. The first is a master’s thesis by a student at the University of Rostock, which examines existing systems for the waste streams of packaging, batteries and electrical and electronic equipment and makes proposals for the design of modulation criteria.

 

The second is a study to evaluate the performance of extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes in Europe, which Landbell Group company European Recycling Platform commissioned from consultancy Adelphi last summer (see previous COMPASS article) and which examines the design of modulated fees in a competitive environment.

 

Both papers have been made available to the European Commission as support for the preparation of upcoming legislation.