Press Release
3 February 2011
New targets to stop toxic chemicals from discarded electrical items seeping into the environment have been backed by Labour MEP Stephen Hughes today.

Mr Hughes and his colleagues have also pushed for firm rules to ensure that council tax payers aren't expected to pick up the cost of recycling the waste.

The new targets call on European countries to recycle 85 per cent of all electrical equipment that has reached the end of its useful life. At present it is estimated that around 70 per cent ends up on rubbish tips or is illegally shipped abroad to be dumped in developing countries.

MEPs also called for specific targets for the recycling of smaller items such as mobile phones, MP3 players and light bulbs. It is estimated that around 90 per cent of these goods are simply discarded.

Labour MEP Hughes, says that the targets currently in place simply haven't worked: "While most countries, including the UK, have been hitting their targets for collecting waste, still far too many electrical products end up in landfill.  

"That means toxic chemicals, such as heavy metals like mercury, will seep into the environment. 

"Part of the problem is that because the targets are purely about weight, there is little incentive to offer people easy ways to recycle smaller items like mobile phones. My colleagues and I believe that retailers should be making it easier for people to bring old products back to their shops for recycling."

MEPs will now enter negotiations with ministers from EU governments to set the final targets. 

Stephen Hughes says that the question of who pays has to be a priority in the negotiations: "We have to ensure that the taxpayer isn't forced to pick up the tab for recycling these products. The cost should be absorbed by the producers and retailers so that consumers know that the price they pay for a product will also cover the cost of its safe disposal at the end of its life."