European WEEE treatment standards referred to in German legislation

ECOS welcomes the reference to European standards laying down important treatment requirements for temperature exchange equipment, such as refrigerators, in a recent proposal to revise the German air pollution control regulation, the ‘Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control’ also known as TA Luft. The proposal, issued early October, currently includes references to requirements of EN 50625-2-3 and TS 50625-3-4, , two standards which are more stringent than current requirements in German legislation.

ECOS sees this as a first step towards combating dangerous gas releases that fuel climate change. Nevertheless, these requirements are only referred to in some sections of the regulation and several critical loopholes remain. Therefore, we will continue supporting more environmentally-sound practices in the treatment of WEEE.

Prior to the revision, TA Luft only specified that treatment plants had to be tested merely once a year during an evaluation notified beforehand, based on state of the art technology, which had not been updated since 2002. The European Directive 2012/19/EU on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) specifies however that at disposal stage, treatment plants are required to remove all cooling and blowing agents into an identifiable stream, so that they can be monitored to verify their environmentally safe treatment.

Yet, in some Member States, the official disposal methods can be problematic, as Chlorofluocarbon gases (CFCs) are often not sufficiently removed from discarded devices and contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer when entering the atmosphere. Specifically, in Germany, cooling appliances are too often disposed of in a way that contradicts legal requirements and entails significant emissions of greenhouse gases.

At standardisation level, ECOS has been arguing that careless treatment of old appliances, incomplete recovery of refrigerants and blowing agents, as well as leaking treatment processes currently contribute the most to CFCs’ emissions and that their safe handling should be adequately prescribed in standards.

Therefore, together with German environmental NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), ECOS has called on German authorities to refer to the treatment requirements defined in European standards EN 50625-2-3 and TS 50625-3-4 in Germany’s regulatory framework. These standards were mandated by the European Commission in 2013 to support the provisions of the WEEE Directive on end-of-life treatment requirements. ECOS believes that these standards, if referred to adequately in legally-binding texts, provide an opportunity to harmonise safe and ambitious treatment requirements for WEEE across Europe.

German stakeholders will have the opportunity to present their views on the revised TA Luft on 7 December.