Defra has announced that it will amend the WEEE regulations to introduce a mandatory requirement for producer compliance schemes (PCSs) to be part of a Producer Balancing System (PBS).
The government did say however, than any scheme “would be subject to consultation before its approval”.
The announcement came as part of Defra’s WEEE consultation response document regarding Open Scope and the PBS, which was released on Friday (May 18).
The PBS is explained by the Environment Agency as a “collaborative solution” to meet the statutory demands from local authorities for the clearance of WEEE from their CA sites/HWRCs, where it has not been possible to enter a contract with a specific PCS.
This means that local authorities in commercially unattractive, remote locations, are guaranteed to have their WEEE collected, with the costs split between members of the PBS by market share.
The consultation response was split into three sections.
As well as the PBS, it also looked into proposals for the implementation of the WEEE Directive requirements to introduce “Open Scope”, which would see the number of WEEE categories reduced from 14 to 6. The government confirmed that it would retain the existing 14 categories.
The government also confirmed in the consultation response that it will see producer registration charges to be paid to the environment agency of the nation where the producer is based. For example, fees from producers based in Scotland will be paid to SEPA.
“This approach will apply regardless of where the PCS itself is based, and is reflective of views from majority of respondents to this consultation question,” Defra’s response said.
The government received 92 responses to the question of making a PBS mandatory, with 70 respondents (76%) supportive of such a move.
Among producers, there was “strong” support (80%) for the proposal to make membership of the PBS a mandatory requirement.
However, some producers expressed the view that cost redistribution to PBS members should be reviewed, particularly with respect to the impact on producers and distributors who operate take-back schemes for household WEEE.
Six of the eight local authorities who responded were in favour of a mandatory PBS, while the remaining two didn’t respond to the question.
The government response said: “We will amend the WEEE Regulations to introduce a mandatory requirement for PCSs to be part of a scheme whereby costs of collecting WEEE when requested by local authorities are shared amongst all PCSs.
“This is to ensure that Regulation 34 requests are fulfilled and collection services are provided to local authorities in circumstances where they have no collection contracts with PCSs.”
Other refinements to the WEEE system are expected within the process to make the PBS mandatory, including changes which could involve incentivising producer take-back schemes (where white goods are collected when new ones are delivered).
The PBS has been criticised by some compliance schemes, which claimed it may be being taken advantage of by schemes short of evidence, because it could come out as a cheaper way to obtain the evidence needed to account for recycling of WEEE.
Some in the WEEE sector have suggested that the fact that Regulation 34 notices were still being issued by local authorities, was because some schemes might prefer to wait for a collection to go through the PBS, and share the costs, as opposed to arranging a collection themselves, which would be more expensive.
Those in favour of the scheme say it is a fair way of distributing the costs of collections from remote locations.
Nigel Harvey, chief executive of Recolight, said: “Making a PBS system mandatory is a great move. A majority of PCSs already participate in the current system. However, a small proportion do not, and so they, and their producer members, can legitimately avoid funding the local authority WEEE that no PCSs wants to collect. That is not fair, and so this change is very welcome.”
The Defra decision was also welcomed by the Ecosurety PCS although policy manager Robbie Staniforth acknowledged that the regulations remain “imperfect”.
“A market-wide balancing system will create a level playing field, whilst ensuring that all WEEE continues to be collected from local authorities”Robbie Staniforth
He explained that while he was disappointed that a voluntary mechanism hadn’t worked, the new system would create a “balanced playing field”.
“A market-wide balancing system will create a level playing field, whilst ensuring that all WEEE continues to be collected from Local Authorities,” said Mr Staniforth.
He added: “The WEEE regulations remain imperfect but this decision marks progress towards ensuring that the cost-burden of collecting from Local Authorities is shared more evenly across obligated producers.”
Matthew Manning, compliance and operations manager at Dixons Carphone, explained that he is pleased to see the 14 categories of WEEE remain, but described the concerns raised over the PBS as “interesting” and emphasised that Defra should be aware of the concerns in the drafting of legislation.
Mr Manning said: “It was good to see the overwhelming support from all stakeholders on keeping the current 14 WEEE categories as we transition into open scope. This will ensure continuity for both producers and recyclers.
“Unsurprisingly, a mandatory PBS system was supported but it was interesting to see the range of concerns raised over the current system which echo our sentiments. We hope Defra takes these highlighted issues into consideration when they draft the consultation for a mandatory system for 2019 as the current model lacks transparency and is open to misuse.”
Defra will now prepare a consultation for the mandatory scheme, which is due to be relased towards the end of this year, ahead of becoming mandatory in 2019.
The government said in its original consultation that it will be “cost neutral” (see letsrecycle.com story)
This is because, Defra says, PCSs are already obliged under regulation 28 to fully cover the costs of collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of WEEE deposited at designated collection facilities (DCF).
The WEEE Conference takes place in London on 6 June 2018 and will be of interest to all those involved in the sector. For more information, please visit: WEEE Conference 2018.