Northern Compliance has responded to the withdrawal of its Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) producer compliance scheme approval.
On Monday it emerged that the scheme, which had around 191 producer members, had had its approval to operate as a compliance scheme withdrawn with effect from 22 January (see letsrecycle.com).
The scheme had been in a dispute with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) over the use of a ‘compliance fee’ as a means of meeting its recycling obligations for 2017. The fee is paid by schemes that have been unable to meet their targets for WEEE collections.
This centred on the inclusion of an ‘uplift’ within the fee methodology, which saw members of the producer compliance scheme balancing system (PBS) pay a lower level of compliance fee than those not signed up to the PBS.
The PBS is a system set up by compliance schemes to deal collaboratively with requests from councils for collection of WEEE – in the event that councils have been unable to agree with a compliance scheme to collect the material.
Northern Compliance, which fell short of its target in 2017, claimed that it should not have to pay the fee, while in the midst of the challenge with Defra over the methodology.
[amended 4 February] The Agency has asked the members of the Northern Compliance scheme to provide information on their compliance for 2018, including of any payment made to the compliance scheme during that period.
In a statement, Northern Compliance’s director Vincent Eckerman expressed ‘disappointment’ at the Agency’s removal of the scheme’s approval.
Mr Eckerman said: “We respectfully acknowledge the EA’s findings, however we disagree with them and are of the opinion that Northern Compliance did not in fact break any of Defra’s UK WEEE Regulations in 2017.
“Northern Compliance believes in a recycling system that is fair and importantly operates in a market that is competitive.”Vincent Eckerman
“Defra’s policy to introduce a retrospective and disproportionate PBS uplift for those businesses choosing not to join what was described as a ‘voluntary’ scheme; coupled with the introduction of an unfair compliance management fee mechanism, had a catastrophic effect on our business.
“We want to put it on the record that in 2018 all Northern Compliances’ former members, bar one exception, funded their obligations and Northern Compliance has met those obligations in full, commensurate with the funding provided.
“Northern Compliance believes in a recycling system that is fair and importantly operates in a market that is competitive.
“In a world where waste management is a vital environmental concern, it is important that the business of recycling remains competitive. Anti-competitive behaviour does not just affect business alone, but ultimately creates less options for consumers to dispose of their recyclable goods properly.”
Due to the scheme having its approval withdrawn, Northern Compliance’s members have now moved to other schemes to provide compliance with their obligations under the WEEE regulations.
Many of them have transferred to a scheme that is linked to Northern Compliance – WEEE Light.
The two schemes are linked through their association with the company AVC Weeeco – described as the ‘delivery partner’ for both Northern Compliance and WEEE Light.
However, one of Northern Compliance’s highest profile members, the retail giant ASDA, has joined the Veolia WEEE scheme.
“Any Producer Compliance Scheme that fails to meet its collection target is in breach of the WEEE regulations.”Nigel Harvey
WEEE Schemes Forum
Nigel Harvey, chair of the WEEE Schemes Forum said that the Environment Agency’s action should act as a reminder to schemes of their responsibilities under the WEEE regulations.
He said: “Any Producer Compliance Scheme that fails to meet its collection target is in breach of the WEEE regulations. In such cases, rapid withdrawal of approval is the right first step. But where there is a material shortfall, our industry would expect to see the EA take robust enforcement action and prosecution of the companies/associated companies/individuals as appropriate.
“It cannot be acceptable for a PCS to avoid the necessary costs of compliance that others have incurred, without further consequences.”