WEEE consultation responses call for change


Industry responses to government’s consultation on amending current Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) legislation show widespread support for reform. The consultation was initiated to ensure UK regulations comply with the European Union’s (EU) recast WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU). 

The Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) consultation – ‘Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE): implementing the recast Directive and UK system changes’ – launched in April, sought views on how the UK’s WEEE Regulations 2006 should be amended to align with the European recast, and to ‘respond to concerns from UK producers of electrical and electronic equipment under the Environmental Theme of the Red Tape Challenge about the cost of meeting their financial obligations under the UK WEEE Regulations’. 

In the foreword to the consultation document, Michael Fallon MP, Minster of State for Business and Enterprise, said that the new regulations were ‘unavoidable…to ensure a level playing field that drives competition and stimulates innovation whilst ensuring environmental objectives and compliance with the obligations laid down in the revised WEEE Directive are achieved’. 

Industry responses 

Overall, there were 256 responses to the consultation: 100 producers, 49 local governments, 29 trade bodies, 22 producer compliance schemes (PCSs), 17 distributors of EEE, 16 WEEE treatment facilities, 16 charities or social enterprises, 14 electrical reuse organisations and 11 waste management companies (WMCs). The remainder of responses came from ‘individuals, central government and staff associations’.

One major outcome of the consultation showed that in regards to reforming existing WEEE legislation to ‘reduce the overall burden of regulation’, the least popular option was to leave the current regulations unchanged (with 59 per cent of respondents listing this as their ‘least preferred’ option). According to the consultation responses, producers who opposed ‘do nothing’ generally agreed that all of the proposals for change would lead to lower compliance costs. PCSs that opposed this option also ‘generally felt the current system unfairly penalises under-collecting PCSs and therefore wanted to see a change to the way the system works’. 

The most preferred options for reforming the WEEE regulations were for ‘option 3’: setting a collection target and compliance fee for producers (95 per cent listed this option as first or second ‘most preferred’); and ‘option 4’: establishing a matching process of collection sites to PCSs, which will see local authorities matched with PCSs ‘based on their obligations by collection stream or cost base according to EEE market share’. 

The proposal for establishing a national compliance scheme for producers, with a code of practice for members (‘option 2’) was not popular, with 93 per cent of respondents listing it as their third or fourth most preferred option.

‘Pleased, although not surprised’ at support for change 

Speaking of the responses, the Joint Trade Association (JTA), which represents the eight major trade associations in the electrical sector, and four producer owned and led WEEE compliance schemes, said it was ‘pleased, although not surprised’ at the level of support for changing the current system.

Richard Hughes, Chairman of the JTA, said: “We are very pleased, although not surprised, at the strong level of support for changing to the WEEE system.  The government now has a powerful mandate for change.

“Both option 3 and 4 would be a good outcome for all stakeholders. Producers support these options because they remove the ‘must buy’ market for WEEE evidence which is a cause of excessive costs in the current system, and because both options introduce a clear audit trail for WEEE treatment.”

Other findings

The consultation also found: 

  • 83 per cent of respondents supported the proposal to create a new, 14th category of WEEE for photovoltaic panels as incorporating them into another category would ‘artificially distort producers’ financial obligations’;
  • 84 per cent of respondents supported the proposal to broaden the lamp category of WEEE (13th category) to include light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, which are ‘rapidly replacing’ gas discharge lamps (GDLs);
  • 125 of 208 respondents selected an option for improving the individual producer responsibility (IPR) system. Sixty-five respondents (52 per cent) said they would like to see ‘a design for reuse and recycling weighting’ taken forward, 14 respondents (11 per cent) would like to see ‘return share based on brand sampling’ taken forward, 20 respondents (16 per cent) would like to see ‘front-end payment’ for WEEE arising taken forward, and 44 respondents (35 per cent) would like to see none of the options taken forward. 

There were mixed responses to developing a protocol to estimate the tonnage of large domestic appliances (LDA) and small domestic appliances (SDA) collected and treated outside the WEEE system established by the regulations, so that the UK can demonstrate that it is meeting the EU’s target of recycling 45 per cent of WEEE by 2016. Some thought that developing such a protocol could detract from physical collections due to reductions in available funding for those collections, or that it might encourage more WEEE to be treated outside the producer financed system, while those in support added that it must be ‘subject to regular review, should not result in any reduction in treatment standards and measures should be taken to avoid “double counting” of data’. 

‘Very real concerns expressed by producers’

Nigel Harvey, CEO of producer compliance scheme Recolight added that he was ‘delighted by the very strong support for the changes to the household WEEE system, to make it fairer for all stakeholders’ and was ‘particularly pleased that 84 per cent of respondents supported the government’s proposal to include LED and gas discharge lamps in the same category’. This proposal, he said, would benefit the UK by ‘avoiding the risk of an unfunded (orphan) fluorescent lamp waste stream’. 

He continued: “We were also pleased that responses came from a wide range of sectors. Given the very real concerns expressed by producers about the operation of the system, it is unsurprising that 100 of the 256 responses came from producers. However, there were also significant responses from local authorities, producer compliance schemes, and waste management companies. That makes it all the more pleasing that the overall support for change was so clear.” 

A full government response to the consultation responses will be published in September, in which the government will reportedly ‘set out how [it] intends to take forward each of the issues on which views have been sought’. It will be accompanied by final impact assessments and revised regulations, on which stakeholders will have an ‘opportunity’ to comment.

Read the WEEE consultation responses document.