WEEE producer responsibility schemes have urged the European Commission to make the material’s treatment standards mandatory, in a bid to end ’cowboy management’.
The WEEE Forum, an association of EU producer responsibility schemes, launched a petition to urge the Commission to adopt legislation that would make the EN 50625 WEEE treatment standard compulsory for all member states.
Philip Morton, chief executive of producer compliance scheme Repic, said: “There needs to be a level playing field, where we’ve all got to achieve the same high standard.”
The WEEE Forum and its affiliated producer responsibility schemes were instrumental in developing the WEEELABEX standard – the precursor to the EN 50625 WEEE standard taken on by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization.
As part of the standard, treatment processes are audited and materials undergo batch analysis to reveal the quantities of materials produced. A dedicated WEEELABEX organisation was set up in 2013 to train auditors.
As it stands only Ireland, the Netherland and France have legislated to make the EN 50625 WEEE standards mandatory.
Morton, who is also president and chairman of the WEEE Forum board, said the petition has wide-ranging support from the recycling industry, WEEE producers and trade associations across Europe.
He added: “The standard would hopefully reduce and eliminate substandard treatment of WEEE.
“If it is not mandated everywhere, there is a potential ‘race to the bottom’. There is also the risk that WEEE is unnecessarily moved across EU borders into member states that have lower treatment standards and lower costs.”
Leo Donovan, chief executive of producer responsibility scheme WEEE Ireland, said recycling standards were of increasing importance in the context of the EU circular economy package.
“If we want to become more resource efficient and sustainable from both an environmental and financial perspective, we must have authorised recycling and recovery facilities all operating to high-quality standards.
“There is no room for cowboy management of WEEE as we move from a linear waste disposal era toward a more circular resource-efficient future.”
Comment: Phil Conran, 360 environmental
The compliance fee enables producer compliance schemes to meet their obligations without physical collection and treatment. So in the case of 2014, we know there was a shortfall in large domestic appliances and small mixed WEEE.
You could argue that it is therefore easier for a producer compliance scheme to simply pay the compliance fee – especially if it is set at zero or a very low cost – than bother to seek out the shortfall tonnage to ensure it is properly collected and processed.
The argument is therefore whether there was the shortfall because there simply wasn’t the material to collect and process, or whether the material was out there but was ‘leaking’ out of the system to unscrupulous operators and not being properly processed.