A senior advisor at the Environment Agency has suggested that changes are needed to ensure the Agency has ample jurisdiction over online stores, which place a “significant amount” of produce on the market.
Chris Grove, senior advisor at the Agency, made the comments while speaking at the WEEE conference held in London earlier this week, which was organised by letsrecycle.com.
Mr Grove explained that as the online retail sector is only set to grow, as more people shop online, “solutions” are needed to bring the retailers into the system.
“We have no jurisdiction to bring in producers which are selling through platforms where they are based outside of England, but place significant amounts of products on the UK market,” he explained.
He added: “There is no silver bullet, and this needs a solution. The internet sales process is only getting bigger and a solution is needed to level the playing field and how we bring those producers in. We collectively need to look at that and understand where the issues are.”
Mr Grove went on to explain when discussing waste crime and tackling free riders, that it has been difficult to clamp down on the former as the EA is funded on a cost recovery basis.
The EA senior advisor explained that coupled with a cut in the Agency’s budget from Defra, it is “limited to a certain extent.”
Mr Grove said: “We have a dedicated team looking at free riders but we are limited a certain extent on what we can do due to issues with funding. Because we are funded largely on a cost recover basis, we can only use the money we receive from fee payers to regulate the fee payers and use that to look at free riders or people that are playing the system.”
He added: “We get a grant from Defra each year to look at this. But in times of austerity this has been reduced of course, so our ability to deal with waste crime is limited by the money we have.”
He went on to state that as waste crime has sophisticated over time, as has the Agency’s approach, particularly with a smaller budget. This includes not continuously checking compliant companies as a “box-ticking exercise”.
Grahame Vickery, senior policy advisor at Defra, also gave a presentation at the WEEE Conference, discussing regulations, and what the future priorities are from a government perspective.
He explained that the government’s 25 year environment plan set out a “truly strategic approach”, helping to better manage resources and explore what we need to do at the production, consumption and end of life stages .
Mr Vickery said that issues on the agenda for the government’s forthcoming waste and resource strategy include increased collections for re-use and recycling, better design of products, the encouragement of more resource efficient use of materials and markets for quality recycled material.
“These are some of the areas I would like to see discussions on. Fundamentally, how do we go about increasing collections for re-use and recycling?” he added.
Anthony Sant, director at AO Recycling, concluded session one of the WEEE Conference, delivering a message about the greater need for collaboration in the WEEE sector.
Mr Sant used the banning of CFCs in fridges as an example of some of the environmental challenges faced which needed tackling and had taken time to resolve. The use of CFCs- Chlorofluorocarbons- was high in fridges and propellants in aerosol cans until the use of them was phased out in 2000 over fears that they were damaging the Earth’s O-Zone layer, he explained.
The AO Recycling director cautioned that that even at the time of them being phased out, there was opposition throughout the industry but the need to protect the environment was the underlining aim.
He emphasised the need for the sector to be aware of environmental issues and the need to support market developments for the recycling of materials, such as for mixed plastics.
Referencing CFCs, he declared: “The thing is, no manufacturer of CFCs went bust. They stopped it and they carried on trading. That for me is important. So we all have a small part to play, in some ways it is a small step for the industry but a giant step for recycling.”