On Thursday December 2, the Government released its assessment of responses to the final consultation on the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, 112 days after it was supposed to have been written into UK law.
The consultation represented the final chance for key stakeholders (manufacturers, retailers, waste management companies, local authorities, trade associations and compliance schemes) to have their say on how the directive would be implemented on August 13 2005 a deadline the Government insists it will meet.
However, if it does manage to make recycling electrical waste a legal duty for industry by summer, politicians will have to work hard and fast to process the many issues that this final consultation has raised.
It will also have to consider the outcome of work by the National Clearing House (NCH) Project Group, made up of producers and other key stakeholders, which looked at the development of the NCH.
An administrative body that will calculate out how much producers of WEEE should pay according to market share, the NCH was a major source of worry for all stakeholders in the consultation.
While 96% of respondents expressing a view supported the idea of an NCH, 35% believed the current timescale for registration to begin was challenging at best and impossible at worst.
Producers of WEEE are supposed to begin registering in January, but at the moment the Government does not know whether it will be ready in time.
A Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) spokesman said: At this precise moment we cant say whether the clearing house will be ready for January registration. The DTI is forming its response to the assessment of responses to the final consultation, which will be released by the end of the month.
So with no word until Christmas, there is a legitimate fear within industry that the clearing house will not be ready in time.
Michael Sadler, WEEE pre-compliance manager for leading compliance scheme Valpak, said: While Valpak supports the principle of a national clearing house to manage data, there remain many practical difficulties with all the approaches so far.
This is an extremely complex piece of legislation, which will have a huge impact on UK industry. There appear still to be a number of critical issues where significant differences exist between sections of industry.
While responses to the consultation have shown that the majority of interested parties support concepts such as the NCH, other proposals received less backing.
Less than half of those questioned agreed that producers or their compliance schemes should report compliance data to the NCH on a quarterly basis, with 22% expressing no view and 29% disagreeing.
Stakeholders were also evenly split regarding the level of involvement of producers or their compliance schemes in the management of WEEE at designated sites, where 24% backed some involvement, 28% had no view and 48% backed no involvement.
However, rather than rush through these issues in order to meet the deadline, Sadler said he hoped the Government would concentrate on getting the legislation right first time.
He added: We are heading towards Christmas and it is unlikely that the legislation will be ready for January. I dont think registration for the clearing house will begin then either.
Obviously this is going to cause frustration with our members, who are looking to get on with signing up to the NCH and building WEEE recycling into their costs. However, the message they have given us is that they want a practical solution that works. It might be frustrating in the short term, but we would rather the Government took its time and got it right rather than have to review or change the NCH further down the line, said Sadler.
Certainly, the Government will want to avoid unnecessary confusion and angering industry as it did with the End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) Directive and the ban on co-dispo