The departing chief executive of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) producer compliance scheme Repic has described his time at the helm of the organisation as a ‘fascinating journey’.
Speaking exclusively to letsrecycle.com Dr Philip Morton, who will retire from Repic at the end of 2016, said that he is stepping back from the organisation to spend more time with his family.
However, he will continue to work within the industry on a part time basis, and has plans to establish his own consultancy firm.
He said: “I absolutely love Repic, the industry and the people in it and I love the journey we have been on through the bumpy early stages of the regulations. It is fascinating. I knew I could do that until someone carried me out in a box.
“I hit the ripe old age of 60 this year, mortal life is finite and there are lots of other things I’d like to do. I won’t disappear from the radar, around four days a month I will be doing some work with Repic.”
Dr Morton will also continue in his role as a board member for the pan-European association of waste compliance schemes – the WEEE Forum – of which he is a former president.
Reflecting on his time at Repic, he said: “For me it has been a fascinating journey. We have maintained our membership throughout that. We have been a committed voice to making the UK WEEE system better.“
Having led Repic for close to 12 years, since shortly after its inception by 12 major electronics producers in 2004, Dr Morton has been a senior figure in the WEEE sector.
His career has spanned the early implementation of the WEEE Regulations through to the introduction of amended WEEE legislation in 2013. Prior to Repic, he had worked as managing director of Cleanaway’s technical waste division.
Dr Morton described re-shaping of the WEEE regulations as the single ‘seismic’ shift in the industry during his time in the post. The changes were designed in part to reduce the overall cost of the regulations on producers, as it was claimed that the laws ‘did not reflect the true cost of recycling’. Changes to the law have effectively removed the market for the trading of WEEE ‘evidence’ between compliance schemes, which it had been claimed had led to inflated costs for producers.
“In my previous life I’ve done a lot of travelling and seen lots of the world – hotels, factories, meeting rooms so it is time to travel with my wife and immerse ourselves in some culture.“
He said: “That made really on the surface some minor changes but they had sweeping effects on the way we operate now. It got rid of the 100% must-buy system. In the old system it was: ‘I’ve got it, you need it, here’s the price’. Under the new system, which meant that the market is not always 100% that brought the possibility of too much or too little WEEE – hence the need for a fee.
“That is a safety valve within the system. This was quite visionary in how the fee is set. There is a caveat that the Secretary of State can choose whether or not to use it in the first instance. That leaves a ‘fog’ in the system that tends to lead people to do sensible things rather than speculate. That has worked so far very well.”
On his future outside of Repic, Dr Morton said: “There is this consultancy that will appear in due time, but I don’t want to be as busy in that as I have been in Repic. I also have a home in Spain and a far flung family – my son married recently and lives in Argentina, so travel is very much a part of the plans. In my previous life I’ve done a lot of travelling and seen lots of the world – hotels, factories, meeting rooms so it is time to travel with my wife and immerse ourselves in some culture.“
Repic, whose members include many of the major producers of electronic goods to sell to the UK market, including Dualit, Dyson, Hoover Candy, Kenwood, Sharp, Toshiba and Whirlpool will be led by former Viridor director Mark Burrows Smith following Dr Morton’s departure.
Mr Burrows Smith formerly served as Viridor’s northern regional director between 2007 and 2011, where he had oversight of the company’s St Helens WEEE reprocessing facility. He had also served as operations director within the business up to June 2015 – before leaving to Irish firm Greenstar, where he was instrumental in the sale of the business to Panda in February 2016 (see letsrecycle.com story).
Commenting on his experience of WEEE recycling to date, he said: “Geographically I was responsible for the WEEE business, and it was something I had an affinity for because it provided a degree of uniqueness and the technology was interesting.”
Mr Burrows Smith mused that his switch from the reprocessing sector into the compliance scheme sector could be compared to turning from “poacher to gamekeeper, or maybe gamekeeper to poacher” but added that his work in the sector had given him an insight into the workings of the WEEE regulations.
On the future challenges likely to be faced in the sector, Mr Burrows Smith added that Brexit and changes in consumer technology are likely to dominate his early work at Repic.
On Brexit he said: “We know some dates and we know the European Act is going to be translated into a UK act. All our members are not just trading in the UK they don’t have that insular case, so we have to be mindful of their wider commerciality. You can always look beyond your immediate horizons for benefits and opportunities.”