1 June 2020 by James Langley

Non compliant WEEE producers online ‘increasing’

The number of non-compliant producers selling waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) on online platforms is increasing, the European WEEE Registers Network (EWRN) says.

An independent network of the registers overseeing the national implementation of the WEEE directives in EU member states, the EWRN claims online platforms rarely react and expel non-compliant producers.

Producers and distributors of electrical equipment are required to finance the collection and treatment of their products 

And, the organisation has condemned a proposal from online platforms to introduce a ‘flat fee model’ to prevent non-compliance.

Nigel Harvey is chief executive of UK-based compliance scheme Recolight. He told letsrecycle.com: “It is really encouraging to see the European WEEE Registers Network take such a strong stand against WEEE freeriding through online marketplaces.

“There is now, more than ever, an urgent need for Defra to tackle the non-compliance of product sold through online marketplaces.”

“There is now, more than ever, an urgent need for Defra to tackle the non-compliance of product sold through online marketplaces”

Nigel Harvey

Under WEEE regulations, producers and distributors of electrical goods are required to finance the collection and treatment of their products when they come to the end of their lives.

It is thought some online retailers, particularly those based outside Europe, may place their goods on the market without registering with a WEEE compliance scheme in the UK.

Mr Harvey has been critical of online marketplaces in the past, suggesting in 2017 that WEEE freeriding through online platforms had reached “epidemic proportions” (see letsrecycle.com story).

Compliance

Under EU law, producers selling electrical and electronic equipment via online platforms must fulfil the same environmental, financial and legal standards as those with physical shops, whether they are established in or outside the EU.

Under EU law, producers selling electrical equipment via online platforms must fulfil the same standards as those with physical shops

Online platforms are generally not classified producers under EU directives.

However, the EWRN argues that, because of a lack of jurisdiction, all the WEEE obligations of producers established outside the EU are unenforceable.

Online platforms facilitate the sales of producers established outside the EU and are fully aware that most of their customers abroad are non-compliant, the EWRN says.

Mr Havey told letsrecycle.com: “The situation has been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. There has been a significant shift from in-store sales to online sales.

“This means the proportion of WEEE non-compliant product sold in the UK will have increased still further.

“That in turn puts greater pressure on the entire WEEE system: the WEEE that needs to be recycled is financed by compliant companies representing a shrinking market share, who therefore pay higher costs.”

Flat fee model

The EWRN criticised a proposal by a ‘bigger online platform’ to introduce a ‘flat fee model’, which would see online platforms act as an intermediary for their customers towards producer responsibility organisations and national registers.

“The situation has been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis”

Nigel Harvey

This, the EWRN argues, would facilitate the business model of online platforms and secure it.

Mr Harvey told letsrecycle.com: “Defra published an ideal solution to the problem in their waste packaging consultation last year. Online marketplaces were to be regarded as the producer of all product for which they facilitate the import into the UK.

“Implementing that simple measure would, at a stroke, resolve most of the problems. It cannot happen soon enough.”

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