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WEEE plan could save UK from catastrophe

A secret plan for implementing the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive could yet save the UK from losing £400 million per year.

Industry sources believe the Government is to scrap its national clearing house proposal (as originally revealed by MRW ) in favour of a state-run system giving recyclers specific sites to collect from.

This could allow small firms to get the investment needed to collect WEEE on a regional basis - countering fears that all the recycling would be done abroad.

With an announcement on the WEEE Directive implementation timetable expected any day now, several parties have spoken about the danger of further delays.

Fresh warnings today - that the collection infrastructure may not be ready in time, and that recycling investment may all go to Germany - further turned up the heat on the Government.

But a key figure representing 300 firms affected by the law has revealed that the industry believes the Government may have a plan to salvage the situation.

Lorie Randall, managing director at trade body DARP Environmental, told MRW : "I understand that the Government is going to basically scrap the national clearing house in favour of a no-frills system run by the Department of Trade and Industry or the Environment Agency (EA).

"This is the rumour in the industry, and it has not been denied by anyone I have spoken to, including people at the Government.

"The rumour is that this system will allocate each centre permanently to one collector, which I think is brilliant as it would allow for small businesses to collect locally.

"We were previously expecting a random collection scheme, which would be unviable for small businesses as they could be sent to collect from anywhere.

"But the rumoured system would allow regional reprocessors to access funding that is available for local schemes. Otherwise, forget it - all the recycling will go to Germany.

"Germany implemented the directive last month and already big companies are starting to develop over there. Compliance schemes in the UK tell me they are already looking to send electronic waste to Germany.

"Every day the WEEE Directive is not implemented here, we are losing investment to Germany - and we are talking about a total of £400m per year.

"Having the EA run compliance would be great because it would remove data privacy concerns, legal problems over a monopoly and difficulties allocating permanent sites."

The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee earlier warned that the delays could mean the money to fund changes to collection sites would not be available.

Chairman Lee Marshall said: "Councils are finalising their budgets for next year, and may not be including money to upgrade civic amenity sites.

"If the implementation of the WEEE Directive then requires changes, the funding may not be available."

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