BIS consultation response heralds WEEE regulation change

Last Friday (11 October), the government published a formal response to its consultation on implementing the recast Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive and current UK system, setting out regulations that will change how the industry operates.

The delayed response to the government’s consultation on amending the WEEE legislation will see the setting of targets alongside the abolishment of evidence notes, and exemptions for smaller businesses producing only a small amount of WEEE.

Response details

In implementing the WEEE Recast Directive, the government says it will:

  • create a new category for photo-voltaic panels;
  • include LED lamp sources in category 13;
  • continue to research the use of ‘substantiated estimates’ of WEEE arising outside the existing system;
  • continue to engage with stakeholders about a system incorporating more individual producer responsibility.

Most significantly, the government has chosen to implement a collection target and compliance fee to finance the collection of household WEEE. This was ‘Option 3’ considered in the consultation. The other options were: do nothing; create a national compliance scheme; or matching collection sites to producer compliance schemes (PCSs).

The decision means that PCSs will no longer trade evidence notes, in a measure aimed at reducing imbalances in the amount of WEEE collected by these schemes, which has been distorting the costs. Instead, as had been expected (see Resource story), compliance schemes will be set targets for amounts to be collected, according to the proportion of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) put onto market by member producers. Significantly, those PCSs not collecting their target amounts will now instead be required to pay a compliance fee per tonne, instead of trading evidence notes. However, schemes will still be in a position to agree contracts with one another ‘in advance of collections’.

The proposed regulations, which are due to be laid before Parliament by the end of the 2013, also require producers to join a PCS, except those producing under five tonnes of EEE, which are now exempt from the regulatory burden. These steps are an outcome from the Government’s Red Tape Challenge.

Among the measures the government is introducing, local authorities that operate designated collection facilities (DCFs) will have the option each year to choose to manage collection and treatment directly, and decide this on a case by case basis for each WEEE stream.

A draft of the Waste Electrical Electronic and Equipment Regulations 2013 has now been published alongside the government response to the original consultation. and interested stakeholders are invited to provide feedback until 1 November.

Business Minister Michael Fallon stated: “The regulations will reduce the cost of compliance for business, bring greater flexibility for local authorities and ensure we meet the requirements of the revised European legislation.The changes to the household WEEE collection system will put us on track to meet the higher collection targets agreed in Europe and drive up the quality of treatment in the UK.”

Industry response

Industry’s response to the announcement is still coming in, but has been largely positive, welcoming the end of evidence trading.

The Joint Trade Association (JTA) – representing the eight major trade associations in the electrical sector – welcomed the government’s proposal. Chairman of the JTA and Technical Manager at the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Electrical Equipment Richard Hughes said:  “We are pleased that the government has seized the opportunity presented by the recast of the WEEE directive to apply fundamental, root and branch reforms to the UK WEEE system.”

He added:  “Whilst not our most favoured option … the government has clearly listened carefully to the comments of the wide range of stakeholders which responded to the WEEE consultation. As the consensus option, we understand the decision and support it.

“It heralds the long overdue demise of the ’must buy’ market for WEEE, provided that the compliance fee is properly set and applied each year. Critically, it means that resources can now focus on ensuring that quality treatment standards are applied consistently, that WEEE traceability is in place, and that collection rates are maximised.

“Furthermore, local authorities will benefit significantly from the changes – from 2014 they will have the flexibility to choose to manage the recycling of any WEEE they collect and to retain the net revenues. Independent research has estimated that this will result in revenues of over £16 million per annum.”

Nigel Harvey, Chief Executive of lighting compliance scheme Recolight, said:  “At a stroke, this will eliminate the ‘must buy’ market and the WEEE evidence trading that blight the current system. The result is a mechanism that can, provided it is implemented correctly, drive up household recycling rates, improve traceability and prevent excessive third party costs.”

He added: “Recolight, the Lighting Industry Association, and others have worked within the wider Joint Trade Association (JTA), to push for regulatory change. Many of Recolight’s producer members also responded to the government’s consultation. As a result, we now have a system which should ensure that WEEE is sustainable in the long term.”

Read more about the Implementation of the WEEE Recast Directive 2012/19/EU and Changes to the UK WEEE System – Government Response.