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WEEE recast should focus on WEEE system as a whole, says industry expert

The recast waste electrical and electronic equipment Directive targets should focus on the WEEE system as a whole instead of a small element of it, according to an industry expert.

Speaking to MRW, HP environmental compliance manager Dr Kirsty McIntyre said she welcomed what the European Committee and Parliament was trying to achieve with the targets but she said responsibility should be placed on the WEEE system as a whole and not just focus on the small picture.

She said the system filters down to retailers, municipal waste sites, social enterprise organisations and producer compliance schemes and not all responsibility should be placed on producers to help meet the WEEE targets. For example, she said producers could be made responsible for one portion of the target and retailers responsible for another bit of the target.

Her comments follow the publication of the long-awaited draft report from the European
Parliaments Rapporteur Karl-Heinz Florenz. He outlined a 65% WEEE collection target for all member states by 2016. The new target is set at 65% of the average weight of products placed on the market in the three preceding years.

The recast Directive states that all member states should encourage all stakeholders handling WEEE to help achieve the aims of the Directive in order to avoid leakage of separately collected WEEE to sub-optimal treatment and illegal exports.

McIntyre said: The 65% target is not so much the problem, although how they arrived at that figure is a mystery and seems to have been produced out of thin air.

The target is calculated on what the producer sells on the market and the producer will have to retrieve that WEEE back.

She said it would be difficult for producers to retrieve that WEEE back. For example, she said that more HP customers were buying laptops rather than desktops and the average customer tends to keep their laptops for long periods of time - on average between seven to ten years.

McIntyre explained that because customers are not throwing away items such as laptops it would be difficult to retrieve that WEEE back and meet the targets (see MRW story).

It is a laudable objective but I disagree with the method of achieving the objective to the point where it is almost encouraging people to discard of products that they would not do normally.

She said if this target is carried through then we are going to fail right from the start and going to fail miserably.

McInytres comments come amid the publication of a report from the UN entitled Recycling from e-waste to resources (February 22). The study suggests that the WEEE legislation alone is not stopping leakage of illegal WEEE outside the European Union.

She said the system could be tightened up by ensuring that leakage from household waste recycling centres to make sure it does not get off that site.

McIntyre continued: There needs to be greater enforcement at municipal collection points and custom officials need to be able to distinguish between what genuine products for re-use and what is scrap. Producers could work on creating a check-list to help custom officials to distinguish between what is scrap or genuine re-use.

Environment Agency policy officer Adrian Harding said that illegal operators of WEEE are being investigated. He added: There are a number of investigations that are under way and we are hopeful that will conclude in prosecutions at the early part of this year.

Everybody in the supply chain needs to take responsibility for their bit of the process, whether you are a bank or a retailer. For instance, if you are a bank giving away old computers to a contractor you have to make absolutely sure that it is being properly refurbished.

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