Theres nothing like a directive for forging new industry links and alliances, and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive has proved no different. Although some parts of it may have caused a difference of opinion, for others it has resulted in new allegiances made in an effort to make the best of the challenges that lie ahead.
Those working within the sphere of WEEE should add REPIC (the Recycling Electrical Producers Industry Consortium) and EERA (the European Electronics Recyclers Association) to the ever-growing list which already includes, to name but two, AMDEA (the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances) and ICER (the Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling).
Given the scope and importance of WEEE, it is not surprising that there are so many groups battling to have their opinions on the directive heard.
From first impressions REPIC certainly seems to be a heavyweight. Conceived in November 2003, and launched early this year, REPIC is billed as the UKs largest producer compliance scheme for the waste management of electrical products. It represents 36 member companies, accounting for some 70% of the major appliance, small appliance and consumer electronics markets. Big name founder members include: Hoover Candy, DeLonghi/Kenwood, Sanyo, Philips, Whirlpool, Panasonic, Hitachi, JVC, Smeg and Bose.
Although still in its infancy, REPIC is already urging the Government to finance both historical and future waste through a separate environmental handling fee charged to consumers when they purchase products (for arguments against a visible fee system see page 20).
Its the most sensible way to cover the cost of a 40-year span of product made before the directive comes into effect, said REPIC chairman Uwe Hanneck. Weve got products over 20 years old entering the waste stream now, and well still be dealing in 20 years time with products made this year.
While REPIC might be the new kid on the block, it certainly isnt the only organisation putting forward manufacturers opinions on WEEE. The European Recycling Platform (ERP) was set up in December 2002 by Braun, Electrolux, HP and Sony to ensure cost-effective implementation of the directive, for the benefit of the participating companies and their customers.
To date, the ERP has largely focused on developing and operating a common waste management procurement platform designed to meet the specific requirements on electrical and electronic producers. The objective is to promote cost efficiency and innovative recycling strategies, while embracing the concept of individual producer responsibility as set out in the EU directive.
Unlike REPICs collective approach, the cornerstone of ERP is its espousal of individual producer responsibility so that waste disposal and management become core business drivers.
Moreover, through individual responsibility, each manufacturer is given a specific commercial incentive to develop products that minimise environmental impact, in which a higher proportion of components can be recycled more easily and at a lower cost.
Alliances and lobbying are not limited to the manufacturing industries. Recyclers and retailers have formed their own groups, to represent their own WEEE interests. EERA was launched last month by a group of European recyclers including Sims Group UK, Coolrec and Immark as a non-profit association to represent the interests of European recyclers.
EERA says that it is aiming for the harmonisation of national and international regulations for WEEE recycling. Currently this involves the creation of a taskforce working on a policy paper concerning the rules for monitoring compliance with WEEE.
The final piece in the WEEE jigsaw is the retailer. Represented by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the WEEE issues being faced, and argued, by retailers, are momentous. In response to th