No agreement on European rules on electronic waste

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EUROPEAN UNION ENVIRONMENT ministers have been unable to reach agreement on a directive requiring recycling of electric and electronic waste. The proposal now awaits the opinion of the European Parliament, which is expected to take up the issue in March, an EU official familiar with the matter said.

The wide-ranging directive, proposed in June, would require equipment manufacturers to accept and recycle equipment including computers, mobile phones, televisions, refrigerators and washing machines, under the "polluter pays" principle.

A parallel directive would ban the use of certain substances including, lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame retardants used widely in electronic equipment.

France, which holds the rotating six-month EU Presidency, had hoped to complete the directives before handing over the reins to Sweden at year's end. But ministers failed to agree on matters such as how soon the regulations will take force during a session Monday and Tuesday in Brussels. France pushed for an 18-month deadline, but other member states held out for a longer transitional period.

"It has been quite intensely discussed, the targets for recovery and reuse of waste, and also the question of the deadlines," the official said. "The positions have come closer, but no final decisions have been taken."

Each year an estimated 6 million tons of electronic waste end up in European dumps. EU environment officials hope the new directives will slash that figure to 1.5 million tons.

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