Environmental Committee considers amendment of the Electronics Act

Daniel Wuhrmann

The Act Concerning the Placement on the Market, Collection and Environmentally Compatible Disposal of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (ElektroG) (only in German) requires extensive changes in order to implement the provisions of Directive 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). A bill to this effect ("ElektroG3") (PDF only in German) was referred to the Environmental Committee on 4 March 2021 without debate. The Committee will draft a proposed resolution which will then serve as the basis for further deliberations. We will now take the opportunity to introduce the changes which are currently planned.

Extension of scope

As in the proposed amendment of the Packaging Act (which we reported on here) and the Proposal for a Battery Regulation (see our News), the new bill will also establish requirements for electronic marketplaces and their operators, as well as fulfillment service providers (§ 3 No. 11 a-c of the bill). We would like to take this opportunity to address a common misconception: just because the Electronics Act frequently uses the term "manufacturer" does not mean that distributors are exempt from the Act's registration requirements. Particularly if the manufacturer fails to register the equipment before it goes on the market, the distributor takes on the function of quasi-manufacturer, with registration requirements of its own.

The material scope of the Act will also be extended. "Making available on the market" will now include the first time an electrical or electronic device is once again made available on the market after being removed from the scope of the Act.

The bill also extends the non-exhaustive list of equipment (Annex 1 to § 2(1) of the Electronics Act) which defines the scope of the Act. Aside from new technical devices (tablets and tablet PCs with a screen size over 100 cm², fitness and health armbands and e-cigarettes), the list would now include all photovoltaic equipment, including solar panels, boilers and hot water storage tanks, as well as pedelecs and personal light electric vehicles with two wheels and no seat.

Criticism for comprehensive takeback and collection requirements

A new section of the Act, § 7a, would require both manufacturers and authorized representatives in accordance with § 8 of the Electronics Act to develop a takeback system, as well as creating "reasonable options for returns" by end users. After all, end users will not be required to provide their waste equipment to the manufacturer (§ 19 (new)).

On the other hand, distributors of electrical and electronic equipment will be required to take back equipment (at no charge to the end user). In the future, this will apply not only to distributors with a sales area of more than 400 m² devoted to such equipment, but also to food distributors with a sales area of over 800 m² which offer such equipment for sale more than once per calendar year (§ 17(1) (new)).

Outlook

We will have to await the vote in the Environmental Committee to see whether the extensive proposed changes will be retained. The bill is currently facing substantial criticism, particularly with regard to the ability to meet the EU target collection rate of 65 percent (Germany fell well short of this target in 2019, with a rate of 44.3 percent) (only in German). For example, the German Retail Federation (HDE), doubts whether the rate can be increased by including groceries. In addition, private and municipal disposal companies are disputing whether operators of primary treatment facilities should accept waste equipment directly from end users in the future (e.g. § 17a (new)).

[March 2021]