Waste and the circular economy: French government proposes to increase liability for waste

Our EU law environmental and product regulatory teams have been following the passage of a significant new law through the French parliament: ‘the Anti-Waste and Circular Economy Bill’ (Projet de loi relatif à la lutte contre le gaspillage et à l’économie circulaire) (the Bill).

Key features of the Bill include:

  1. Radically expanded obligations for producers in relation to waste management
  2. Introduction of a ‘product lifetime score’ to be displayed on some products
  3. Harmonised waste collection rules
  4. New criminal sanctions for planned obsolescence tactics

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Introduction of new ecodesign measures for energy related products in the EU

The European Commission has recently adopted a range of new mandatory ecodesign obligations, which include ecodesign and energy efficiency requirements for energy related products in the EU, pursuant to the EU Ecodesign Framework Directive (Directive 2009/125/EC).

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Breach of shipment of waste regulations leads to £590,000 in fines and costs

Biffa Waste Services Ltd (Biffa) has been fined for breaching Regulation 23 of the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 after containers of paper for recycling were found to be contaminated with household waste. The fine was £350,000 plus an additional £240,000 in costs.

In 2015, Biffa had arranged for shipments of waste paper to be transported to delivery sites in Shenzhen and Guangdong. When the containers were inspected by the Environment Agency (EA) at the port of Felixstowe, UK, they were found to be heavily contaminated with a variety of household waste, including shoes, plastic bags, videotape, electric cable, latex gloves and laminate flooring.

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REACH update: ECHA adds 18 SVHCs to the Authorisation List

Following on from the consultations carried out in 2018, and as had been expected, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) announced yesterday that it will move to add 18 substances of very high concern (SVHC) to Annex XIV of the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), i.e. the “Authorisation List”.

As a reminder, substances included on the Authorisation List cannot be “placed on the market” or used after a given date – the ‘sunset date’ –  unless a user obtains authorisation from ECHA or where the use itself is exempt. The list of substances and their common commercial uses, annexed to the ECHA announcement, is replicated below (please click on the image to enlarge).

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Senate Environment & Public Works Committee votes unanimously to approve Dr. Katherine Lemos to head the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

On September 25, 2019, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) voted unanimously to approve Dr. Katherine A. Lemos, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). Dr. Lemos’ nomination will now advance to the full Senate for confirmation.

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EPA repeals 2015 WOTUS rule amid broader environmental regulatory rollbacks

On September 12, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army issued a pre-publication draft of the final rule to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS Rule), which amended existing Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations. According to the EPA, the agencies’ goal is to “implement the pre-2015 Rule regulations nationwide as informed by applicable agency guidance documents and consistent with Supreme Court decisions and longstanding agency practice.”

The WOTUS Rule built on the existing regulatory scheme and defined the geographic scope of the CWA by placing waters into three categories: (1) waters that are categorically “jurisdictional by rule” in all instances; (2) waters that are subject to case-specific analysis to determine whether they are jurisdictional; and (3) waters that are categorically excluded from jurisdiction.

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New state-approved label for environmentally certified “Green Button” textiles (Grüner Knopf) launched by Germany

On 9 September 2019, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung – BMZ) introduced a new, state-regulated environmental label for “Green Button” (Grüner Knopf) certified textiles with a press release, available here. The BMZ also launched the official Green Button website, which is available in German at http://www.gruener-knopf.de/.

In a nutshell

The Green Button is a logo that serves as evidence that the textile products concerned were manufactured and placed on the market in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner. The state is responsible for determining the requirements for Green Button certification.

The Green Button is intended to help consumers and public procurement agencies in identifying such textile products. The logo can be attached directly to certified textile products to demonstrate that the products meet the demanding social and environmental requirements.

Please click here to read more on Reed Smith’s Technology Law Dispatch blog.

EU consultation watch: EU Commission launches new consultations on RoHS and ELV directives

The European Commission is inviting interested parties to submit their comments and concerns related to EU legislation on the following topics:

  1. The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive: This is merely a generic request for feedback. The Commission will be releasing a revised RoHS Directive in 2021 and is, therefore, offering a chance for industry to have its say on the effectiveness of the RoHS Directive in its current form, so that, in its words, the revisions to the Directive are able to strike a balance in protecting the rights and interests of all the affected stakeholder groups.

The purpose of this consultation is to gather views on how the restriction of hazardous substances in electronic products works in practice: what works well, what does not and why. Any submissions should be prepared and submitted in the manner prescribed on the consultation page. The last date for submissions is 6 December 2019.

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EPA sends Risk Management Program rollback rule to OMB

On September 12, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent for pre-publication review to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a final draft rule aimed at repealing regulatory changes to the Risk Management Program (RMP). The RMP regulations establish a performance-based standard for process safety applicable to facilities that utilize or manufacture a threshold quantity of highly hazardous chemicals, historically mirroring the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The EPA had previously set internal deadlines for the agency to complete the rule – first in January 2019, and then in August, when its initial deadline passed. Having missed both deadlines, the agency then established a plan to finalize the rule by the end of 2019. Review by the OMB can take up to 90 days. Steven Cook, deputy assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, indicated at an environmental conference in August 2019 that the agency was working to review a significant number of public comments on the proposed rollback rule, and that the EPA planned to proceed in a manner that was “staying inside the bounds of what the statute, the regulations have in place.”

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Circular Economy and the EU Waste Shipment Regulation: why changes to the latter are critical to the success of the former

Overall, the EU Waste Shipment Regulation (EC No. 1013/2006) (the EWSR) is effective, relevant and coherent, and adds value at the EU level.

Those were the conclusions of the Trinomics study supporting the evaluation by the European Commission of the fitness for purpose of the EWSR (here: https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/926420bc-8284-11e9-9f05-01aa75ed71a1/language-en/format-PDF/source-99087502).

Many in business who have grappled with the EWSR may beg to differ. In fairness, the study did also highlight a number of areas for improvement with which few would disagree, including the need for greater harmonisation of enforcement policy between member states, more consistent application of waste classifications by national authorities, and quicker, less cumbersome notification and approval procedures.

Arguably, however, the most interesting and strategically important challenge facing the EWSR is how it must evolve to support the EU’s Circular Economy plans.

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