Producers call for changes to ‘flawed’ WEEE system

14 May 2013

By Will Date

Several leading electronics producers have spoken out over the ‘excessively costly’ WEEE compliance system, calling for widespread changes to be brought in by the government under its review of the WEEE regulations.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills launched a consultation into the regulations around how producers of electronic goods fund the recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) last month (see letsrecycle.com story) following concerns that the cost of compliance with the current regulations does not reflect the true cost of recycling.

Electronics producers have called for widespread changes to the WEEE system
Electronics producers have called for widespread changes to the WEEE system

Producers argue that the current producer responsibility system for WEEE is based on waste being costly for businesses to dispose of, and claim that despite a rise in commodity prices since the regulations came into force, the cost of compliance has not changed.

This week, producer members of the Joint Trade Associations including Candy, Samsung, Delonghi, Hewlett Packard, Panasonic, Toshiba and Dell have released a joint statement publicly supporting proposed changes to the system which are likely to reduce the cost of compliance.

The JTA is a grouping of eight Trade Associations in the electro-technical sector, established to lobby for changes to the existing WEEE system. The group’s members also include producer compliance schemes including B2B Compliance, ERP UK, Recolight and Repic.

The producers claim that ‘there is no doubt that the UK system needs to change’, adding that the government’s consultation and its attached impact assessment, which analyses the net costs of the current system and the alternatives proposed by BIS, ‘clearly sets out the need for change’.

Hewlett Packard

Mark Dempsey, European waste policy advisor at IT manufacturer Hewlett Packard, commented that the changes to the system proposed in the consultation would produce a greater level of competition that would eliminate the trading of evidence between schemes.

Hewlett Packard has been among the leading critics of the current WEEE system and in January 2012 published a report claiming that producers were being ‘exploited’ by the existing compliance regulations (see letsrecycle.com story).

'The BIS consultation document and impact assessment underline the excessive costs and lack of audit for WEEE that result from the evidence trading system.'

Mark Dempsey, Hewlett Packard

Mr Dempsey said: “This is a unique opportunity to deliver a UK WEEE system that works for everyone. There is no doubt the UK system needs to change. The BIS consultation document and impact assessment underline the excessive costs and lack of audit for WEEE that result from the evidence trading system. Now is the time for real solutions that unleash competition and deliver a UK WEEE system that works.”

Meanwhile, Tom Nickson, environmental affairs manager at Toshiba, says that the company is fully supportive of plans to change the current, ‘flawed’ system.

He said: “The government impact assessment shows that the current system inhibits competition and choice. It states: ‘there is no incentive for a PCS to offer a lower price to attract new members even where it has surplus WEEE, since it can always sell surplus evidence to deficit PCSs who must buy at the given price to meet obligations or face criminal sanctions’. So, we are fully supportive of the need to change the current flawed and anti-competitive system, while increasing the ability for a producer to ensure a high standard of recycling.”

In its consultation document, BIS has outlined four proposed options for the future of the WEEE system, including:

  • Option 1: No change and continue with the current system;
  • Option 2: Introduce a ‘National Producer Compliance Scheme’, instead of competition between current compliance schemes;
  • Option 3: Setting targets for compliance schemes along with a ‘compliance fee’ if these are not met, instead of the trading of WEEE evidence data between collection schemes, and;
  • Option 4: Matching collection sites to compliance schemes.

The JTA has revealed that it has a preference for the government to pursue option four, as it is already in operation in a number of European countries, but says that it would also be supportive of option three if it was found to be the favoured system following the conclusion of the consultation.

Stakeholders

Meanwhile among other stakeholder groups, council WEEE expert Claire Brailsford has said that councils are broadly likely to be in favour of option three as a likely outcome from the consultation.

Speaking at a conference on the changes to the WEEE system organised by letsrecycle.com earlier this month, Ms Brailsford said that competition between schemes is a key element of the current WEEE system that local authorities would not like to see change (see letsrecycle.com story).

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Hewlett Packard

Toshiba

However, speaking at the same conference, Barry Van Danzig, chief executive of producer compliance scheme Electrolink, questioned the government’s mandate for changing the current system, adding that the government’s ultimate aim was to ‘drive down’ the cost of recycling to the detriment of local authorities and the waste sector (see letsrecycle.com story).

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has given stakeholders until June 21 to respond to its ongoing consultation on the proposals.

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