4 December 2018 by Will Date

Defra to consult further on mandatory PBS

The producer compliance scheme balancing system – PBS – for WEEE schemes will not be made mandatory from the start of January 2019, as had been anticipated.

This is so that the Department for Environment for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) can carry out further consultation on the proposal which will take place in Spring 2019.

WEEE schemes are expected to be required to join the Producer Compliance Scheme Balanacing System

The PBS is a system set up by compliance schemes to deal collaboratively with requests from councils for collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). It is used in the event that councils have been unable to agree with a compliance scheme to collect the material.

Councils are entitled to the free offtake of WEEE deposited by householders, funded by producers of electronic goods through the producer compliance system, under the WEEE Regulations.

In recent years, some councils have reported that demand for WEEE by compliance schemes has dropped, particularly where CA sites are located in remote locations or where logistics costs are high (see letsrecycle.com story).

If a council has been unable to reach agreement with a scheme on the collection of WEEE, they are able to use ‘Regulation 34’, a backstop which exists under the WEEE regulations to guarantee collection of WEEE.

PBS

The PBS, which is overseen by consultancy firm Anthesis, acts as a centralised system to make handling these requests more manageable for both schemes and councils. An initial 23 compliance schemes set up the PBS in 2016 to collaboratively deal with Regulation 34 requests from councils (see letsrecycle.com story).

The system is designed to encourage schemes to bid for work. Those taking the least WEEE in proportion to their obligated tonnage foot a larger proportion of the bill for the running of the system.

At present the PBS is a voluntary initiative between compliance schemes, but Defra had announced plans in October 2017 to make the system mandatory for all schemes to join.

This would, it is thought, ensure that the costs of dealing with Regulation 34 requests through the PBS are shared out between all compliance schemes, and not just those to have opted in to the system.

Supporters claim this is fairer than a voluntary arrangement, which schemes can choose not to join, and therefore avoid any cost. However, critics suggest that the system lacks transparency, as the costs involved are kept private and schemes do not know how much competitors are bidding for WEEE.

Costs

One scheme has claimed that ‘high and unpredictable costs’ from the PBS system brings “additional uncertainty” which has inhibited investment in WEEE recycling.

Following an announcement in May, it had been expected that mandatory membership of the PBS would be brought in from January 1 2019 alongside other changes to the WEEE regulations – which were laid in Parliament last month.

It has now emerged that the PBS will remain a voluntary initiative until at least Spring 2019 when Defra is expected to consult on the new PBS format – with a likely June start date for the compulsory system.

Commenting on the development, Nigel Harvey chief executive of the compliance scheme Recolight, and chair of the WEEE Schemes Forum which led the development of the PBS, said it is ‘reassuring’ that Defra is pursuing a mandatory system.

He said: “It is pleasing that the government has made good on its promise to make the PBS mandatory in 2019. The dates in the new legislation mean that the voluntary system will only be needed for a few months in 2019, which is reassuring.

“That said, the transition from a voluntary system to a mandatory system in year will create some complexity, but it will be worth it in the long run. It makes the system fairer by ensuring that all PCSs contribute towards the cost of WEEE that arises through regulation 34. Currently, some PCSs avoid this cost – inevitably the highest cost WEEE – by staying outside the voluntary system.”

Criticism

Despite support from what is thought to be a majority of schemes for the mandatory PBS– some opposition does exist.

A perceived lack of transparency has led to schemes paying more for the collection of WEEE through the PBS, critics have claimed.

Martin Fortune, founder of the WEEE Allocation Scheme

Martin Fortune, director of Key Waste Solutions is among those to oppose making the PBS mandatory in its current format.

He has founded the WEEE Allocation Scheme (WAS) as a potential alternative to the PBS (see letsrecycle.com story). Under the WAS scheme the value of the winning bid would be displayed publicly to all members to aid members in budgeting and to ensure fairness in the system, Mr Fortune has said.

Speaking to letsrecycle.com, he welcomed the opportunity to present an alternative proposal to the PBS through the consultation process.

“We are pleased that Defra has realised that there is a potential for more significant cost to industry and that there should be a more open and transparent process.

“We will now have a chance to present and for people to look at the alternatives.”

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