The European concept of waste and reverse logistics /off-spec products. Reference in CJEU Shell.

In (soon to be) joined Cases C-241/12 and C-242/12, the Court of Justice is being asked to clarify the application of the Waste Framework Directive‘s concept of ‘waste’ in the context of reverse logistics /off-spec (or ‘off specification’) products. These are products which after shipment, turn out not to meet the agreed specifications (because they are defective, or even if in working order, do not meet the agreed parameters). In the logistics chain, such products are often sent back upstream (whence ‘reverse logistics’) and sold to other customers, whether or not after modification or repair.

The facts as reported are included below.

At stake is in particular the extent of relevance of the contractual context. Under the terms of the contract (and indeed under general contract and warranty law), off-spec products are routinely sent back to the wholesaler or brought back to the point of sale. Any finding of such goods meeting the waste concept, may turn an important part of daily logistics operations into waste transport operations.

[Declaration of involvement: I act as court witness in the national proceedings.]

Geert.

 

Reference for a preliminary ruling – Rechtbank te Rotterdam – Netherlands – Interpretation of Council Regulation (EEC) No 259/93 of 1 February 1993 on the supervision and control of shipments of waste within, into and out of the European Community (OJ 1993 L 30, p. 1) and Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2006 on shipments of waste (OJ 2006 L 190, p. 1) – Concept of ‘waste’ – Shipment of Ultra Light Sulphur Diesel (ULSD) by vessel from the Netherlands to Belgium – ULSD mixed accidentally, when the vessel was being loaded, with Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) – Product no longer corresponding to the specifications agreed upon by the buyer and the vendor – Buyer who became aware of that fact at the time of delivery in Belgium – Diesel taken back by the vendor and shipped to the Netherlands – Purchase price refunded to the buyer – Vendor having the intention of placing the diesel back on the market, whether or not after mixing it with another product – Inclusion or noninclusion in the concept of waste

Waste not want not – Dr Caroline Jackson’s ideas for EU waste law compliance

I have often thought that the collective memory lost in Members of the European Parliament leaving the Institution, is both a policy and a legal pity. A policy pity, as one assumes politicians, too, learn though trial and error, therefore improving the quality of their regulatory output over the years. A legal pity, for when applying statutory law such as EU Directives, the object and purpose of what is written in Gazettes (in the case of the EU, the Official Journal), can only assist to a certain degree. The preparatory works of EU law are readily accessible via Oeil and Prelex, yet these do not tell the whole story. One often needs the view of the fly on the wall to appreciate what the law really means.

I expressed this thought specifically at a conference in Brussels some years ago, where Dr Jackson, then MEP (for 25 years!) and close to retire from Parliament, also spoke. She displayed exactly the qualities which are apparent in a recent paper for the IEEP, co-authored with Emma Watkins: a keen eye for legal detail and a genuine concern for the quality of the legislative process a the EU.  In ‘EU Waste Law: The Challenge of Better Compliance‘, the pair review the problems associated with waste law compliance, and suggest ways of improvement.I will not even attempt to summarise, the genuine article does a much better job at that.

One of the concerns expressed in the paper, is the trend of intransparency surrounding both first reading agreements between Parliament and Council, and conciliation agreements. That is of concern to those of us who like to dig deep into EU travaux préparatoires. I for one certainly hope that Dr Jackson will continue to write on her long experience as a European lawmaker.

Geert.

Corporate Social Resonsibility used as stick and carrot – Court Amsterdam

End 2011, the Gerechtshof Amsterdam issued a further ruling in the long-running Trafigura case (exports of wastes, Ivory coast). I am restricted from commenting on the waste law merits of the case however it is interesting to note that the court employed CSR both as carrot and stick in determining punishment. As a stick: companies with a level of sophistication as Trafigura ought to organise themselves to be aware of the legal implications of their production process. As a carrot: the foundation created by the company supports global CSR projects, which merits a certain amount of leniency. As far as I am aware, this was the first time that CSR was used in such specific manner in court.

Geert.

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