Concern that the new WEEE regulations have “completely ignored” business-to-business WEEE have been raised by the head of WEEE recycler and compliance scheme WasteCare.
Managing director Peter Hunt told MRW: “The focus is always on B2C, B2B is not even on the radar.” While he said it didn’t cause any immediate problems, it could be a “smoking gun” that meant B2B producers ended up with more liability and cost than before.
“If you go to the European directive it is clear on this: a B2B product is only something that you would not find in the home.”
But he said that in the UK, there was a “mad” situation where an item such as a laptop could be sold as a B2C item but end up as a B2B item depending on how it was collected for disposal, so it cannot be claimed as evidence for household WEEE. Unless it can be proved that WEEE has come from a household, the Environment Agency deems it B2B so it ends up uncounted.
“It has now left a huge amount of WEEE that is not being picked up on the data - 60% of all WEEE falls outside of the regulations - so they are now talking about introducing another system [the proposed substantiated estimate system] of allowing for all this WEEE that has escaped rather than just keeping it simple: WEEE is WEEE and EEE is EEE.”
He is concerned that a substantiated estimate system would use a theoretical figure that is “open to abuse” and creates “more room for error” and pointed to the failure of such a system to work for batteries.
He added that the five tonne de minimis threshold has potentially further complicated matters for B2B producers. Many B2B producers will fall under the five tonne de minimis threshold as they produce niche products for businesses. By not having to be a part of a producer compliance scheme they will bear the burden of responsibility for WEEE from their customers. WasteCare had argued for a one tonne de minimis threshold to avoid such issues.
“Under the old scheme we had a solution for that and it worked and we had no problems. The B2B producers had a very low cost, in many cases as little as 1% of the B2C cost. Now, they have potentially got an open-ended commitment and they don’t know what it is.
“So they are now in a rather bizarre position: one minute they are told ‘we’ve de-regulated you, therefore you are going to save money, aggravation and bureaucracy’. The next minute, you have got a far bigger risk than you ever had before. It is an odd position, but the regulation doesn’t address this.
“There are more B2B than B2C producers. So technically there are going to be more companies that are affected by this than not.”
- BIS published guidance notes for the new regulations on 1 November and the EA issued a position statement for small EEE producers on 29 October (see related files)