UK: Producer Responsibility - Final consultation on implementation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive in the UK

Last Updated: 10 August 2006
Article by Paul Rice

Despite the long passed deadline of full implementation in the UK by 13 August 2005, the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) at the end of July 2006 released what is hoped will be the final consultation on Regulations to transpose the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive into national legislation.

The consultation papers published on 25 July 2006 come with the aspiration that the implementing regulations will be transposed into UK law in December 2006 and the collection and take back regime will finally come into force in July 2007, some two years late. The UK is one of the last remaining member states of the enlarged group of 25 countries to bring the Directive onto the statute book. As the consultation period ends on 25 October 2006 following which the Regulations will need to be finalised and published, producers will be required to register with the Environment Agency and Schemes established to handle their obligations, the timetable would still appear ambitious.

Launching the latest consultation Malcolm Wicks, Energy Minister summarised the key aspects of the regime:

‘By providing a way of ensuring that electronic waste no longer has to go to landfills, manufacturers and importers will have the responsibility to ensure that they plan for both their new and existing products to be recycled rather than dumped.’

The WEEE regime when fully implemented will impose onerous obligations on producers, importers and distributors (including retailers) of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) in relation to the take back and separate collection, recovery, treatment and recycling of WEEE.

It should be noted that this latest set of proposals contains some marked differences from those previously circulated, not least that producers no longer will have the option of going down an individual compliance route.

This consultation marks the final stage of UK implementation and its key proposals include:

  • A national Distributor Takeback Scheme (DTS) which will establish a network of Designated Collection Facilities (DCFs) to allow end users to return their used EEE. The DTI will shortly run a competition for a single DTS to be appointed for an initial period of three years;
  • Obligatory registration of producers through approved compliance schemes with joining fees calculated according to market share or size of each company (fair fee structure). The Government has moved away from the option of allowing producers to go down the individual compliance route;
  • Obligatory marking of all EEE with the crossed out wheelie bin symbol to be clearly visible on the product itself;
  • The Environment Agencies will approve producer compliance schemes in accordance with published criteria;
  • Calculation of producers' obligations will be based on market share and will be calculated and submitted by reference to the calendar year. Protocols will be published to clarify the recording and reporting procedures for WEEE;
  • A Code of Practice will be confirmed covering collection of WEEE from DCFs;
  • Compliance schemes must give priority to the re-use of whole appliances where possible and work closely with charitable and voluntary organisations to achieve this;
  • Treatment and processing of WEEE will be permitted through authorised treatment facilities only;
  • An end of year settlement procedure to ensure producer compliance schemes are able to meet the obligations of their members. This will be done through an Exchange where compliance schemes with excess evidence of compliance can trade that excess with those schemes which have not been able to collect and process enough WEEE to satisfy its members' obligations; and
  • Voluntary disclosure to consumers of the costs of handling historic WEEE.

The Consultation includes a discussion paper, draft regulations, draft non statutory guidance and a partial regulatory impact assessment. Unlike the earlier consultations which were undertaken by the DTI on behalf of the UK Government only, this latest consultation aims to shortcut the implementation timetable by consulting on behalf of the Government as well as all of the devolved administrations.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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