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Logical progression

The letter of the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive may insist retailers offer in-store takeback, but the Government is listening to those that say the spirit of the law allows for them to use compliance schemes.

As the final consultation on the directive was launched on July 30, the Department of Trade and Industry said it was still talking to the retail industry about the possibility of allowing them to transfer their recycling obligations to a specialist company.

And packaging-compliance firm Valpak believes it could be that company. The Stratford-based firm is next week launching a WEEE pre-compliance scheme to offer advice to the 500 or so existing members who will have obligations under the law. And it eventually hopes to make a full WEEE compliance scheme available to all affected companies.

Valpak was founded to help businesses fulfil their obligations under the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997. These laws require packaging producers to pay for the recycling of a percentage of packaging waste. Valpak buys packaging recovery notes (PRNs) from packaging-recycling companies on behalf of its members, to show they have paid for the necessary amount of reprocessing.

More than 3,000 companies comply with the packaging waste laws through Valpak membership, and the firm believes this leaves it well placed to help people comply with the WEEE Directive.

Chief executive Steve Gough says: The Government is still consulting on the WEEE Directive, and we need to wait to see how the legislation is formed before we say we can offer a compliance scheme. But we are hoping we will be able to offset producers obligations that is bread and butter to Valpak.

We believe our background in PRNs will stand us in good stead when it comes to helping WEEE retailers and producers fulfil their obligations.

Valpak is set to make a full written response to the Governments third consultation paper before the October 29 deadline. But until such time as the legislation is written out and passed into UK law, the company is concentrating on its pre-compliance scheme. It believes this will help overcome a wealth of confusion from electronic equipment producers about the directive.

We did some initial market research, which was very positive about the need for this scheme, and we are in the process of signing up members, says Gough.

There is an element of confusion in the marketplace. Businesses are aware of the regulations but not necessarily the full implications of them. Many organisations have yet to get their heads around the consequences of the directive.

For example, some retailers are not aware that they take on the obligations of a producer if they import electrical or electronic equipment made specifically for them.

There is an appetite for information and we are looking to offer advice and information to members. We can clarify matters for them.

Gough added that he hoped the pre-compliance scheme could help Valpak understand producers needs as well.



Feedback

Potentially it is a two-way dialogue, he says. We are well placed to offer advice, and we hope to get feedback from our members that we can pass on to Government during the consultation period.

A huge number of our packaging members will be affected by the WEEE Directive. We have around 300 producers of WEEE and about 250 retailers of it, many of which will have obligations as a producer as well.

Historically we have been in dialogue with our members, and we have the WEEE Members Council within Valpak. We are driven by legislation and by members needs.

Valpak sold its 40% shareholding in PRN trading floor the Environment Exchange earlier this year. Gough said then that the decision was based on a determination to diversify into other areas. This explains the interest in WEEE, and also the move into data-collection services, which the firm hopes will help it benefit from the WEEE Di

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