Compliance schemes support amendments to WEEE Regulations
UK compliance schemes for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) have welcomed the government’s response to its consultation on proposed amendments to the UK WEEE Regulations 2013, with actions to be taken forward including a more equitable sharing of the costs of WEEE collection.
The consultation ran from 20 October to 8 December 2017 and received 107 responses in total from producer compliance schemes (PCSs), trade bodies, producers, reprocessors and local authorities. Proposed amendments that required responses included a move from a 14-category system for defining WEEE to a six-category system, in line with a change to the EU WEEE Directive that will enter into force on 15 August 2018.
75 per cent of respondents said they would prefer retention of the current 14 categories, with protocols to be developed to allow the UK, if necessary, to report under the six WEEE Directive categories. 87 per cent of PCS were in favour of this option, which was also the preferred option of the government.
Many of the respondents felt that the 14-category system represented the fairest allocation of the costs of recycling, while a six-category system could lead to additional cost burdens, with producers potentially having to finance the treatment of products with higher recycling costs than their own products. It was also felt that fewer categories could lead to more inaccuracies in reporting.
As a result of these responses, the government has stated that it will retain the existing 14 categories. The ‘Open Scope’ requirement of the WEEE Directive will also be implemented, meaning all items of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) will be allocated to one of the 14 categories, even if they were previously not covered by any category.
Compliance scheme Ecosurety, which meets WEEE recycling obligations on behalf of its members – producers of EEE – welcomed the news, with Policy Manager Robbie Staniforth saying: “We are glad to see that the government agrees with us and the majority of our members. Changing the reporting system would have created an unnecessary burden for producers, especially given the very short timeframe and the fact that there will not be standardised reporting across the EU.
“It is a shame that UK businesses have been left with this uncertainty for so long but we’re pleased to see the right decision has been made. We support the development of a methodology that allows the UK government to report figures to the EU in the format required.”
Nigel Harvey, Chief Executive of lighting WEEE compliance scheme Recolight, added: “Retention of the 14 WEEE categories means producers will not need to report large and small equipment separately. That avoids unnecessary red tape.”
Mark Burrows-Smith, CEO of REPIC Ltd, added: “REPIC joins the echoes of support for retaining the 14 categories of WEEE as we transition into open scope. The no change from the current way of reporting is a sensible route to take as it is the least costly and disruptive option. It also provides ongoing stability to the WEEE system at a time of adjustment to new targets and EPR challenges.”
A ‘level playing field’ for WEEE collection
The government will also be requiring all WEEE compliance schemes to become members of a Balancing System, which will ensure that the costs of collecting WEEE from local authorities are shared equally between schemes. This was initially a voluntary system, but when these amendments come into force, all compliance organisations will be obliged to collect a certain amount of waste regardless of whether they have fulfilled the obligations of their members, something 76 per cent of respondents were in favour of.
“Making a PCS balancing system mandatory is a great move,” Harvey added. “A majority of PCSs already participate in the current PCS Balancing System. However, a small proportion do not, and so they, and their producer members, can legitimately avoid funding the local authority WEEE that no PCS wants to collect. That is not fair, and so this change is very welcome.”
Staniforth agreed: “While we are disappointed that a voluntary mechanism hasn’t worked, a market-wide balancing system will create a level playing field, whilst ensuring that all WEEE continues to be collected from local authorities.
“The WEEE regulations remain imperfect but this decision marks progress towards ensuring that the cost-burden of collecting from local authorities is shared more evenly across obligated producers.”
Support also came from John Redmayne, Managing Director of ERP UK, who stated: “The open scope consultation shows once again that the UK Government is listening to and working to address the concerns of all stakeholders in the WEEE system. We will play a full part in the discussions on the mandatory PBS Balancing Scheme and work now to support our members through the transition to open scope.”
Meanwhile, Burrows-Smith said: "Making the Producer Balancing System (PBS) a mandatory system is a fair and efficient wasy to deliver consistemt and reliable collection services to local authorities, whilst sharing the costs between PCSs. The existence of the PBS creates a sustainable environment within which PCSs of all sizes can operate and ensurers a fair cost allocation.
"While the current PBS has worker well, REPIC recognises the need to assess and review any evolution of the system, so would therefore expect the enabling legislation will be for a PCS Balancing System, rather than mandating the current PBS."
In addition to this measure, the government will also be requiring PCSs to pay producer registration charges to the environment agency of the country where the producer is based, meaning, for example, that fees from producers based in Scotland will be paid to SEPA and those in England will pay to the EA, regardless of where the PCS is based.
‘Free-riding’ by online sellers
Non-compliance by online sellers of EEE who are not registered as producers was raised as an issue by a number of respondents to the consultation. 74 per cent said that the current system does not do enough to ensure online sellers are compliant, suggesting that the WEEE Regulations should be amended to require online sellers and fulfilment houses (packing warehouses) to take on the responsibility of ‘producer’ for the product they sell or stock on behalf of internet sellers, an issue raised at a EucoLight conference in September 2017.
The government has said that it will organise a roundtable with key stakeholders to ‘explore’ the issue of non-compliance by online sellers, in advance of the publication of its Resources and Waste Strategy, which is now expected in September.
Harvey commented: “Online free-riding is a major problem to many in the electrical sector, which puts compliant companies at a competitive disadvantage. Although it is disappointing that the government has not yet proposed regulatory changes to tackle this problem, it is good to see that change is at last being contemplated. It cannot happen too soon.”
Burrows-Smith added: "Defra's proposal that EEE producer registation fees should be allocated to the regulator in the nation in which that producer is based appeared fair and will ensure that producer WEEE charges are shared equitably between four environment agencies.
"In the long term, REPIC would like to see a change to the WEEE Regulations to ensure all agencies charge the same annual producer registration fee to avoid "compliance tourism", which encourages PCSs to register in the jurisdiction of the agency with the lowest fee for competitive advantage."
The summary of responses to the WEEE consultation, and the government’s response, can be read in full on the government website.