CEF UK general manager Alan Jackson sits on the board of directors for both CEF and EWRG.
The High Court claim is expected to run into millions of pounds.
Action is being taken against lamp manufacturers Philips Electronics UK, GE Lighting, Osram and Havells Sylvania UK along with Recolight. CEF and EWRG allege that Recolight is controlled by these manufacturers, who are also shareholders, although it is acknowledged by both firms that Recolight is an open scheme.
A statement from CEF and EWRG explains that litigation has arisen out of the 2006 Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations, which imposed responsibility on lamp manufacturers for the costs of disposing of waste lamps in an environmentally friendly way. Since 2007 manufacturers have imposed a 15p charge per lamp on each lamp sold to electrical wholesalers such as CEF to cover the cost of treating and recycling waste lamps. The surcharge goes to Recolight which is responsible for recycling old bulbs when they are returned.
However, CEF claims Recolight has refused to accept or be responsible for any lamps it has collected from its customers since 2008. At times it is under obligation from its customers to take old lightbulbs away once CEF ahs replace them with new ones. CEF has therefore had to separately arrange and pay for collection, treatment, recovery and disposal of the lamps. But CEF is still paying the 15p per lamp surcharge to manufacturers.
EWRG was one of a number of recyclers contracted by Recolight to recycle light bulbs. In addition, it alleges that Recolight has refused to accept responsibility for any lamps collected by and processed by EWRG under the firms existing business arrangements with a number of commercial organisations, including CEF and other national electrical wholesalers. EWRG is therefore burdening the cost to recycle the light bulbs despite the fact that the manufacturers are charging substantial sums of money to meet these costs via Recolight.
A statement from Recolight said: Recolight strongly deny the claims by Electrical Waste Recycling Group and City Electrical Factors, and have filed a robust defence in the High Court, fully setting out their position.
According to media reports, Recolight decided not to renew some contracts with EWRG because of serious health and safety concerns at two of its plants. In February of this year, EWRG was fined £145,000 for exposing workers to toxic mercury fumes at its Huddersfield plant. (See MRW story)
EWRG and CEF said in a statement: It is alleged by us that the actions of the manufacturers and Recolight are anti-competitive and a breach of both domestic and European law. Their actions, we allege, have caused financial damage to both claimant companies and in particular to EWRG which has been compelled to undergo a recent restructuring and redundancy programme to allow it to continue to meet its contractual obligations to numerous third parties, something which it is determined to do.