Environmental legislation in the EU has moved on substantially from simply regulating matters related to endangered species, or the protection of the ozone layer, to playing a vital role in every-day matters involving economic operators of all types. Indeed, overseas traders have to increasingly keep up with EU environmental provisions in their daily activities if they are interested in exporting to any of the EU Member States. Since the Treaty of Amsterdam came into force (May 1999) environmental considerations have been gradually incorporated into every main area of EU policy. For instance, there are technical regulations covering:
- waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE);
- packaging waste;
- end-of-life vehicles;
- toys and textiles controlling the use of azodyes
- the introduction of watertight traceability and labelling criteria for genetically modified organisms (GMOs); and
- the elimination from the EU market, in 2009, of all products containing hydrobromofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons.
Chemicals: The Environmental Council of the EU has for some time now been involved in a controversial debate on the introduction of a single regulatory framework of registration, risk-evaluation and authorisation for chemical substances (the “REACH” system). The REACH system will, when introduced, affect all chemicals sold in the EU by transferring responsibility for assessing and evaluating thousands of chemicals onto economic operators, thus increasing their burdens. It is expected that downstream users – e.g., those making toys and textiles – will also have a role to play.
Office equipment: Manufacturers of office equipment should also be aware of the Energy Star Programme, introduced in 2001, which concerns energy-efficient labelling programmes for their equipment. This labelling programme is intended to allow consumers to identify energy-efficient appliances and thus result in energy savings. As with the EU’s eco-labeling scheme, participation in this scheme is voluntary. Some of the more environmentally conscious EU Member States also operate national-level ecologically sound labelling schemes.
Noise levels: The EU Commission has introduced a framework Directive to cover equipment intended for use outdoors, covering more than 50 products. The Directive sets maximum permissible noise emissions levels and labelling requirements on equipment including cranes and other construction equipment, lawnmowers, lawn trimmers and certain types of hand-held equipment.
Detergents: The EU Commission has proposed a new Regulation to consolidate the existing Community legislation on the biodegradability and labelling of detergents. While the fundamental policy in this area remains unchanged, this new proposal is intended to enhance environmental protection by consolidating existing legislation and to harmonise the rules concerning detergents within the Internal Market. Pesticides, already heavily regulated, continue to come under environmental scrutiny by the EU institutions.
How can we help?
We can provide assistance in identifying the appropriate environmental legislation affecting businesses trading with the EU.