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Industry reacts to Government’s WEEE proposals

A group of eight trade associations and four producer-led compliance schemes has backed government proposals to reduce costs in dealing with Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) by matching up producer compliance schemes with collection sites.

The Joint Trade Associations (JTA), which represents more than 90% of WEEE producer responsibility in the UK, said the move would result in the “fairest cost” to WEEE stakeholders.

A consultation launched by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on a “recast” of the EU WEEE directive proposed taking on EU targets to collect 85% of WEEE generated in the UK from 2019 onwards.

It also set out four options on compliance schemes – do nothing, establish a national compliance scheme, introduce a collection target and compliance fee, or match collection sites to producer compliance schemes.

BIS said it was concerned that many producers were paying over the odds do deal with WEEE and that red tape was strangling small producers.

The JTA said the third and fourth options would give local authorities and other WEEE collectors the certainty that all WEEE would be cleared free of charge on request. The options would also allow WEEE collectors to treat and report WEEE themselves to retain the income.

It said: “Of the two preferred options, the JTA favour the producer compliance scheme/designated collection facility matching process [see definition below]. It is tried and tested, and already operates in a number of other European countries. 

“We are convinced that it will result in the fairest cost for all WEEE stakeholders. We are also confident that this option can be implemented within the UK in an effective and timely manner.”

Initial response to the consultation has not all been positive. A leading WEEE collection and recycling specialist criticised the proposal to estimate the amount of WEEE in light iron consignments.

Justin Greenaway, contract manager for SWEEEP Kuusakoski said: “The recast should encourage more WEEE recycling, not theoretical recycling of commingled WEEE in scrap metal. Applying a protocol to proportion WEEE content in scrap metal will be open to errors like the portable battery protocol which now records more portable lead batteries than even get sold onto the marketplace.

“Applying this methodology will see the UK recycle as much WEEE as we would like to estimate – no target is unreachable.

“It is also an insult to dedicated small WEEE facilities that are capable of dealing with toxic batteries and mercury contamination while complying with ever-increasing recycling targets. A level playing field of recycling quality will be impossible to regulate.”

The BIS consultation explanation of the producer compliance scheme/designated collection facility matching option: “In summary it proposes the adoption of a system that matches PCSs to DCFs, distributors and other economic operators that have WEEE in one or more of the collection streams that they wish to hand over to producers for treatment. The financial obligation placed on producers would continue to be based on market share and the amount of WEEE arising in the system in any compliance period. It is not proposed to introduce a fixed tonnage target with this option.”

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