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Councils face financial risk when opting in or out of WEEE compliance schemes

Local authorities will face a difficult financial choice over joining compliance schemes as proposed by the ongoing WEEE consultation, according to the Local Government Association (LGA) .

When the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) launched the consultation on WEEE it said it was minded to back either a collection target and compliance fee, known as option three, or matching collection sites to producer compliance schemes (‘option four’).

Both options allow councils to opt out of the system, and instead keep incomes from any WEEE. Councils could also choose to opt into producer funded collections free of charge.

A spokesperson from the LGA said: “There is an increasing market in both the recycling and reuse of WEEE. There is therefore an opportunity for councils to secure a greater share of the value of this sort of waste.

“But because of the fluctuating value of the material depending on the market, councils need to weigh up the positives with the potential risk. They might be left dealing with a mountain of unwanted fridges if the value drops.”

The comments come after WEEE producer compliance scheme Electrolink rejected the Joint Trade Association (JTA)’s claim that WEEE legislation changes will increase council’s revenues. The JTA represents eight trade associations and four producer-led WEEE compliance schemes.

Electrolink chief executive Barry van Danzig told MRW that the changes would shift producer costs onto local authorities, and challenged JTA to a debate about where the cost of the new rules would fall.

Adding to the debate, Phillip Ward, former local government director at WRAP, said: “There’s no clear cut answer but there is a high risk that local authorities could lose out either way.”

He added: “This will depend on how good the authorities are at negotiating a deal. So far, elsewhere, they have not been good. If they were going to go down this route then I would strongly advise them to join into consortia so that they can afford to employ someone with the right commercial background.

“If they don’t do that then I think the Electrolink view is more realistic than the JTA’s.”

However, Ward also pointed out that BIS’s objective in this part of the consultation is to reduce costs on businesses and not on local authorities.

The consultation closes on 21 June 2013.

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