The meeting was sought by the Institute of Refrigeration Ireland to discuss the scope of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment in accordance with the WEEE Regulations.
Members had voiced concern about a potential widening of the scope of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) legislation. It appeared that the EPA was taking the view that the scope of WEEE extends to quite a wide range of RAC plant and equipment.
The meeting was attended by five representatives of the Institute of Refrigeration Ireland, three representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency and two representatives of the WEEE Register Society Limited. A representative from the Department of Environment, Heritage, Community and Local Government was not available to attend.
The IRI outlined the difficulties facing IRI members in relation to the WEEE Regulations by presenting the view of the European refrigeration industry on the application of the WEEE Regulations to their sector. In summary, the IRI argued that electronic components (OEM) and spare parts (OEM) are not in scope. The IRI highlighted that the EU Commission WEEE and RoHS FAQ document indicated that professionally installed refrigeration and air conditioning equipment was not within scope of WEEE according to the Commission.
The EPA responded that the FAQ document was the Commission’s own interpretation of the directive and that each Member State transposing the Directive interprets the directive in its own context. The FAQ document has no legal standing.
Scoping of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment
The EPA stated that both climate control appliances and other fanning, ventilation and exhaust type equipment is included in Category 1 under the WEEE Directive and Regulations. They also clarified that the WEEE directive covers both Business to Consumer and Business to Business electrical and electronic equipment and that the regulations provide for distributor obligations.
The EPA then went on to outline details of a recent trilateral WEEE scoping meeting between the EPA, WEEE Register Society Limited and Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. The following scoping decisions were concluded for air conditioning units:
This decision was based on the most probable waste stream once the equipment reached end of life and was the best reasonable interpretation of the scope of where WEEE will arise in the context. It was acknowledged that industrial type refrigeration was not included for consideration at the trilateral meeting referred to.
The IRI stated that off-the-shelf type plug-in air conditioning units for use in households are not in dispute and therefore are agreed to be in scope of the WEEE Regulations but that across Europe professionally-installed systems are not. The EPA responded that the WEEE Regulations have a wide scope and do provide for Business to Business electronic equipment.
The IRI explained that some of the equipment in question will consist of a whole refrigeration plant with the equipment only forming a small part of the overall product, e.g. slaughter plant. The EPA outlined that scoping decisions are generally reached during time of registration following discussions between the obligated producer and the WEEE Register Society Limited. WEEE Register Society Ltd representatives indicated that components included in industrial refrigeration units may be included in the scope of the WEEE Regulations and that this is considered in any scoping decision.
The IRI pointed out that components currently supplied from Europe do not include the crossed-out wheelie-bin symbol, which is required where a product is in scope of the WEEE Regulations. IRI members have expressed their frustration at the different interpretation of scope of equipment across Europe. The IRI restated the widely held position that industrial refrigeration equipment is outside of the scope across Europe. The IRI sought clarity for IRI members in order to ensure compliance.
The EPA and WEEE Register Society Limited highlighted the definition of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) contained in the WEEE Directive and Regulations and on which any further scoping decisions would apply:
“equipment which is dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields in order to work properly and equipment for the generation, transfer and measurement of such currents and fields falling under Categories set out in Annex IA of the European Parliament and Council Directive 2002/96 EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment for use with a voltage rating not exceeding 1,000 volt for alternating current and 1,500 volt for direct current”.
The IRI pointed out that the variety of products was immense and that it would be difficult to provide information on the breadth of products involved. Scoping would have a significant cost impact on the industry which is already under pressure.
The IRI noted the positive approach that the industry was taking to comply with the ODS and F Gas regulations and argued that the WEEE issue had come out of blue as a consequence of EPA inspections in 2010. The IRI asked that WEEE be excluded from any ODS Fgas inspections while discussions on scoping are progressing. The EPA declined to give such a commitment and stated that it was for the EPA to consider the scope of any inspection it undertakes. The EPA reiterated that the obligation had always been there and that scoping was based on the definition in the WEEE directive and regulations.
All parties had a better understanding of each others’ positions at the conclusion of the meeting but it was also clear that the views of the EPA, the Department and the WEEE Register Society Ltd are very far apart from those of the IRI with regard to the scope of the WEEE. The matter is expected to be revisited at a further meeting in the Autumn 2011.
In the meantime, the IRI will consult with our European colleagues in AREA on the matter and will discuss the matter further at the next council meeting. Any feedback from members is very welcome.