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WEEE claims don't stack up

Barry Van Danzig

The claims by the Joint Trade Association that changes to WEEE legislation will increase councils’ revenues do not stack up when tested under the recast, and are simply false.

The data is clear in the recast documents, which show that the changes will shift producer costs from producers onto local authorities.

Commenting on the recast proposals head of waste management at Hertfordshire County Council Matthew King said that responsible local authorities needed confidence that WEEE is handled in an auditable fashion and that there is a guarantee of free of charge collections.

Matthew has hit the nail on the head as this is exactly the area where the WEEE recast debate needs to be discussed. The key questions are as Matthew said: Where is the guarantee that WEEE will be handled properly and where it the guarantee that local authorities will not pick up any of the costs?

The idea that by opting out or opting in Local Authorities will benefit is an illusion. Opting out simply means that the local authority will have to take the financial risk of fluctuations in the scrap market for WEEE they already benefit from. If prices fall then the local authority will lose out and will have to pay to get the producers obligated WEEE recycled. By opting in then they have to hand over the WEEE ‘free of charge’ but this does not take account of their administration or handling costs nor does it cater for any increased operating costs of the HWRC caused by the proposed changes to the legislation.

Equally, handing over the control of WEEE to a compliance scheme on its own may not be as safe as is being claimed. Currently a council has some control as it is contracted with the HWRC contractor and can ensure that all environmental laws are obeyed. Under the proposed changes the local authority will be allocated their scheme, who will then take control of the WEEE themselves.

A few years ago Sky TV made a programme that tracked WEEE waste by inserting a tracker into a completely broken television which ended up in West Africa. The TV came from a Hampshire designated collection facility operated by a compliance scheme whose aim was to drive down costs. This is the same dangerous route of a race to the bottom on cost that led to the collapse of the Bangladeshi clothing factory.

The two issues raised by Matthew King get to the heart of the matter – I now challenge the Joint Trade Association to an open debate to prove whether he or they are right about the costs and environmental safety of proposed changes to the WEEE regulations – watch this space.

Barry Van Danzig, chief executive of Electrolink

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