Renewable Matter # 17 / July-August

New Rules for Reach and Waste

by Francesco Petrucci

The path to a real circular economy promoting actions to reintroduce into the economic cycle materials at the end of their life is paved with clear and strong European regulations poised between development and environmental protection. 

European regulations, interpretative documents and operational guidelines are crucial tools for decision makers, companies and private citizens who cannot ignore “the rules of the game” to operate effectively in the European Single Market.

In this new Column, we will update readers on European latest developments that can be of interest to those operating in the circular economy. 

While on 1st July 2017 Estonia started its six-month presidency of the European Union Council (made up by the various ministries in charge of this matter) and the Estonian Minister for the Environment announced that his presidency will focus on eco-innovation and sustainable finance, the representatives of European institutions (Parliament, Council and Commission) are debating an agreement on the draft of the “circular economy package” including changes on European regulations on waste, already passed by the Parliament on 14th March 2017. This document represents the real challenge to solve by the end of the year, even if the positions of the different member states remain far apart, at least according to what emerged from the investigation carried out by the European Environment Bureau and released on 16th May 2017.

As far as the circular economy is concerned, the European Parliament seems to be more sensitive than the Council as demonstrated lately by the 4th July 2017 document addressed to the Council and the Commission, “A longer useful life for products: Advantages for consumers and enterprises.” According to the European Parliament, concrete actions are needed to support repairable products and promote design extending their life.

Product design improvement also relies on European certification systems, but companies seem little sensitive to this as demonstrated by the poor use of the European Ecolabel quality label; according to a document released by the Commission on 30th June 2017 it is not very widespread in Europe.

As of 2019, European consumers will enjoy electrical appliances with efficient and easy-to-understand labels with the adoption of the regulation of the 4th of July 2017 – n. 2017/1369/EU, in force since 1st August 2017 but effective from 1st January 2019 replacing the “old” EU Directive 2010/30, while many companies producing or dealing in dangerous goods and mixtures will take on new environmental protection obligations. As of 1st June 2017, all substances and mixtures put on the European market must have labelling in conformity with Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008, which will be changed as of 1st December 2018 in line with new aspects introduced by Regulation (EC) No 776/2017.

In addition, over the last few months, producers and importers of chemicals regulated by the so-called Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 “Reach” (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals) have had to adhere to new obligations. As of 18th May 2017, 20 new methods to establish physicochemical properties, toxicity and ecotoxicity of chemicals have been introduced (Regulation (EC) 735/2017): while 12 more chemicals have been included in the authorization list provided for by Regulation (EC) 999/2017.

Correct classification of waste is extremely important in order for companies to deal with it according to the law. This is why the recent changes on the characteristics of waste dangerousness is so important. Regulation (EC) 997/2017 replaced “HP 14 Ecotoxic” classification included in Regulation (EC) 98/2008 on waste. In order for companies and authorities to adjust to this important change, this new classification will come into force on 5th July 2018. 

Mercury is one of the most dangerous chemicals for the environment and human health. We are very pleased then that Regulation (EC) 852/2017 passed on 17th May 2017 on use, storage and trade of mercury will replace as of 1st January 2018 the “old” 2008 Regulation. 

Still on the “war on mercury,” on 18th May 2017 the EU ratified the Minamata Convention on mercury aiming to wipe out man-made mercury emissions. The first meeting of the signatories of the Convention will take place in Geneva from 24th to 29th September 2017. 

We finish this article with a backward step on energy efficiency. On 26th June 2017, the European Council in passing the proposed amendment to Directive 27/2012 rejected the compulsory 30% target proposed by the European Commission, the target remains optional for the 28 member states. Let us see whether the European Parliament that must debate and pass the wording will agree. 

 

Francesco Petrucci, in collaboration with “Rifiuti – Bollettino di informazione normativa” magazine and Osservatorio di normativa ambientale, www.reteambiente.it