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Whos got the bottle for WEEE?

With clarity on the WEEE Directive on the horizon Stephen Bates looks at the role communications will play in helping waste managers to meet the whole new set of challenges facing them. The key to successful marketing is to identify your principal target markets so you know where to focus your energies. Easy to do when youre selling soft drinks. Not so easy when youre selling the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. As a rough guide, we can identify four key targets for WEEE communications: 1. The public 2. SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) 3. Public Sector (schools, hospitals, etc) 4. Big businesses Its fair to assume that public sector and big businesses will have facility managers and the like well acquainted with the WEEE Directive, with policies and procedures in place to accommodate it. The publics contribution to WEEE is comparatively small and becoming less so as retailers become ever more active in providing disposal services the retailers often themselves falling into the big business categories. Thats not to say they should be overlooked far from it. But the extent to which they need to be engaged in with this issue is unlikely to be as intense as with other recycling initiatives. So that leaves the SMEs and its an easy group to overlook, after all, what impact is a small estate agency or carpentry business going to have on the WEEE stream? The answer is a lot. According to the Small Business Service, there are 4.3 million SMEs in the UK, employing 47% of the workforce (22 million people) and 36% of UK business turnover (£2,400 billion). Another statistic WEEE enforcers should be aware of is that a recent survey of this sector found that 59% of business owners view legislation as a restricting factor for growth*. So, you have the largest sector in the UK economy registering their dislike of legislation. If ever there was need for efficient, targeted communications for WEEE, this is where efforts need to be focused. Reaching this group is no easy task. The sheer size and diversity rules out many of the traditional approaches although there is perhaps scope to develop a national campaign of sorts, based upon the current Waste & Resources Action Programme model: Recycle now for business perhaps? linking regional and business sector campaigns with a national brand. It may not be easy but there are routes to reach this market. The biggest problem is whos going to pay for it and whos going to drive it? With local authorities largely out of the loop on this and the main financial beneficiaries being the processors, the government is likely to be unwilling to contribute to any initiative that favours one specific business sector that has (at the moment) relatively few players. There may though, be a solution with its roots in a less obvious sector. The Milk Marketing Board was established in the 1930s with the aim of increasing and maintaining producer incomes; these incomes had been put under pressure as dairy companies expanded and became more powerful. It also provided the orderly marketing of milk and an organised representation of producer interests to balance that of the dairy companies. As a result, small dairy farms benefited from national advertising campaigns and marketing initiatives without the need for individual, heavy investment. Maybe theres scope to consider a similar model for the WEEE industry. Processors contribute to the formation of a board that represents their collective interests and provides a viable forum through which the Government can engage with key target groups. The processors still have autonomy and the need to compete for business remains but with the added marketing clout such an approach would provide, the potential business available could be much greater. Add accreditation to the mix to weed out the cowboys, and the collective offer is strengthened even further. Whats certain is that without some form of effective communication, the WEEE Directive runs the risk of simply remaining an aspirational entity to which the government and producers will forever chase but rarely attain. The question is, have they got the bottle to do anything about it? Stephen Bates is director of communications at EnviroComms. For further information, visit www.envirocomms.co.uk. *Source: Small Business Service

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