New study highlights ‘truly shocking’ extent of WEEE non-compliance

An EU-wide study into waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) compliance has found that a significant number of products sold through online marketplaces are non-compliant with national WEEE requirements.

A workshop hosted by EucoLight in Brussels

All producers of electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) in the EU are obligated under the WEEE Directive to declare how much EEE they place on the market, as well as to organise the collection and recycling of their products at the end of life stage, either directly or through a compliance scheme.

At a workshop hosted in Brussels last Wednesday (6 November), EucoLight, the European Association for lighting WEEE compliance schemes, revealed that there is an ‘exceptionally high’ level of non-compliance with WEEE regulations across Europe.

EucoLight assessed over 4,200 products across online marketplaces in 10 EU countries and found that a wide range of products are non-compliant with the regulations, with non-compliance for smaller products, such as LED lightbulbs, in the range of 78 to 100 per cent.

Table showing non-compliance with national WEEE requirements
Summary of the findings of the EucoLight study

“Truly shocking”

Recolight CEO and former EucoLight Vice President Nigel Harvey said: “The high level of evasion of WEEE obligations this study has uncovered is truly shocking. This is non-compliance on an industrial scale.

“It was therefore very pleasing to hear that a number of countries, including the UK, are considering a range of different solutions to address the issue. This patchwork approach could make compliance more awkward for the online marketplaces, but it is the only way to address the problem quickly.

Natalia Sierra Conde, Director of Institutional Relations of Ambilamp Spain, and Chair of the EucoLight Policy Working Group said: “Making multi-seller online platforms responsible for compliance is a simple solution. There are far fewer organisations reporting data, which makes audit checks and monitoring easier. And the risk of avoidance for financial obligations is much needed.”

Commenting on the outcome of the discussions, EucoLight Secretary General Marc Guiraud, said: “When considering which approach to adopt, EucoLight actively encourages all member states to require online marketplaces to fulfill the role of producer, in respect of all product brought into the national territory via their platform.”

Cracking down on WEEE free-riding

As online shopping platforms continue to grow, so too does the issue of ‘free-riding’, where e-commerce sites sell products directly to households in the EU from producers based outside of the EU to avoid producer responsibility obligations, including compliance fees.

A 2018 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) urged governments to take serious action to tackle free-riding, although the fact that the sales are conducted online and across borders makes it more difficult to enforce compliance.

In January 2019, the French Government introduced new rules obligating online marketplaces to ensure that the collection and recycling of all products sold through their platforms have been properly financed.

It has also been announced that a new EU regulation will be implemented in 2021 stipulating that all online retailers must take responsibility for ensuring compliance documentation for WEEE is verified by an economic operator within the EU.

You can find out more about EucoLight on the association’s website.

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