Representing the UK constituency of Yorkshire and the Humber Region, Robert Goodwill was elected to the European Parliament in 1999. As a member of the Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy, he worked for key amendments in the proposed WEEE and RoHS directives.
Goodwill backed individual producer responsibly for recycling of electric and electronic equipment and was instrumental in pushing through the exemption of spare parts from the ban on lead and other substances detailed in the RoHS directive. Nokia worked for individual producers responsibility through the Electronics Coalition, while the exemption of spare parts from the scheduled substitution of lead and other restricted substances is of considerable importance for economically and environmentally sensible maintenance of network equipment with their long lifespan.
Encouraging Responsible Design
Goodwill says individual producers responsibility encourages environmentally beneficial product design. When the producer knows that he is in the end responsible for the recycling of his product, he has an incentive to make a product that can be recycled.
"If you had a solely collective scheme you'd find that the manufacturers wouldn't have any reason at all to come up with products that are easy to recycle."
Also, it makes sense for producers to build more durable and better products with valuable materials, such as copper, if they know the scrap value will be accruing to them rather than somebody else.
Cooperation towards Effective Compromise
According to Goodwill, the outcome on the WEEE directive was a good compromise. Manufacturers who design their products to be more recyclable will be able to benefit from that at the end of the product's life by either having lower costs of recycling or recouping the materials in those products.
On the RoHS directive, he says, the exemption of spare parts to existing equipment was a very sensible solution.
"It would be crazy to throw away a perfectly good piece of equipment, be it a washing machine or a mobile network base station, just because no replacement circuit board was available meeting the new requirement for lead-free solder."
The extended transition period for devices with long service life was the only feasible solution. It would not be economic for the manufacturers to develop new lead-free spare parts for existing devices because the demand would be too low.
Product Performance Affects the Environment
Goodwill stresses that products that don't perform don't actually help anyone from the green point of view. If a product fails, people will throw it away and buy another one.
"If you have to use inferior technologies or materials because of eco-legislation, that isn't green at all because all that happens is that product life is reduced and people throw them away."