With implementation of the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive pushed back until next year, the delay has been welcomed by many in the industry who believe that there is still much to be decided.
Producer and retailer obligations are due to begin in June 2006, with registration starting in January. But how ready are the retailers?
In September, Valpak was chosen by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to run its compliance scheme, and the pressure is now on to sign up retailers and local authority civic amenity (CA) sites to provide an
'adequate' collection network. Although retailers have the option to set up in-store take-back on a like-for-like basis, the electroscrap would have to be stored somewhere on the premises and the retailers would have to pay for its collection.
Alternatively, the Retail Compliance Scheme (RCS) will provide a CA site upgrade fund, which has been
set at £6.2 million as a one-off payment with a 10% maintenance fund. This makes the fund equivalent to £6,000 per site with an additional £2m available to cover any other costs.
side of the retailers' responsibility but is a big issue for the CA sites."
However, Smith said that local authorities will get a good package from CA sites that become dedicated collection facilities. There will be the free collection of all separately collected WEEE, producers will meet the costs of treatment, recovery and recycling, and authorities can count the WEEE towards their targets.
Despite this, Smith said the challenges now are to turn what are just expressions of interest into reality, and to address the collection gaps in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
"This is about establishing an adequate collection network, and the money needed to do this does not reduce so we need as much participation as possible," continued Smith.
"Every shape and size of retailer is obligated. We need to develop a model to reward existing take-back activities and attract smaller businesses into the scheme. This could be done with a one- off fee to make it simple."
By the end of October, the RCS is expected to have mapped the collection infrastructure. But Smith says this is a tall order and hopes it can be done by the end of the year. He added: "We need to get funding in place as early as possible."
As with all legislation, the way in which it is enforced is key and, according to Daniel Kapadia, policy adviser at Defra's Producer Responsibility Unit, enforcement will come from consumers who are aware of their rights to return their old electrical equipment and will report those retailers that are not fulfilling their obligations.
"Defra is very interested in the issue of evidence
of compliance," he says. "Those pretending to be part of the RCS will be committing an offence. The list
of people in the RCS or offering in-store take-back
will be policed by the Environment Agency."
Kapadia said the EA would be keeping k