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Reflections on the WEEE consultation

It was to be expected that stakeholders in the waste electronics industry would want to change to the current system but some of the responses to the recent consultation have been surprising, says Tom Kenning.

The major driving force for the reform of the system continues to be concern that the amount producers have to pay through Producer Compliance Schemes (PCSs) is often much higher than the true cost of processing WEEE.

It may come as a relief to larger companies with obligations that respondents agreed with the Government that a “substantiated estimate” of all WEEE collections should be introduced. This would mean the waste electronics gathered by independent collectors, who are not obligated to report their collections, will still be counted towards national targets. This resolves an issue described by MRW in May.

Four options for compliance schemes in the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) consultation, which launched in April were:

  1. No change
  2. A national compliance scheme
  3. A collection target and compliance fee
  4. Match collection sites to producer compliance schemes

The Government said it was “minded” to pursue either option 3 or 4.

MRW’s Big Question in June on the WEEE consultation showed majority support for option 4, also ranked as the best option by the highest number of respondents to the consultation.

But it came as a bit of a surprise that local authorities, in particular, told BIS they were against option 4, which takes away their ability to choose their own producer compliance scheme. MRW’s straw poll for our Big Question in June suggested that councils would be happy with options 3 and 4.

The responses published by BIS showed that councils were in fact heavily in favour of option 3 because they would be able to take financial advantage of WEEE collections or opt out and still have it collected for free.

MRW also suggested that support for option 2 (a national producer compliance scheme) was still a possibility and could be high on the agenda for many stakeholders. Instead respondents to the consulation were extremely negative about it, perceiving it as monopolistic and believing it could cause anti-competitive behaviour and higher costs for producers as a result.

The sector is now waiting for the formal response, which BIS said would be published in September 2013.

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