Why Defra’s consultation decision is a big win for the WEEE industry

Defra have released the results of their WEEE consultation, which took place at the end of 2017

The findings were due to be released in April 2018 but were delayed due to two contentious issues - the number of reporting categories for 2019 onwards and whether to make the PBS system mandatory. Here we explore the underlying facts, and the announced decisions from Defra.

WEEE categories

Producers responsible for reporting WEEE have been used to reporting their products into 14 categories, which help to separate out the recycling costs, as well as the collection targets. Ultimately the industry is set up to increase levels of separately collected WEEE and reduce the amount of WEEE going to landfill.

Within the wider context, the UK’s obligation stems from its membership of the European Union and the EU Directive (2012/19/EU). The consultation was designed to understand what the UK will do in order to align its categorisation to fall in line with the EU model, which changed to a six category system in 2012 with measures to be implemented from 1st January 2019.

As a recap, the proposed options were below:

  • Option 1: To move to 6 categories (to exactly mirror the categories set out in the EU WEEE directive);
  • Option 2: To retain the current 14 categories;
  • Option 3: To move to 9 categories (this was seen as a compromise of moving to the 6 categories, but trying to reduce the financial impact)

How many WEEE categories has Defra chosen?

The good news is that Defra have listened to the industry feedback from a mixture of compliance schemes, trade associations, treatment facilities, local authorities and producers and have chosen the least disruptive option – to retain 14 categories.

75% of respondents to the consultation opted for Option 2. From a producer’s perspective this is going to offer some sense of relief in a regulation that is otherwise going through a transitional period, with the effects of open scope being felt acutely by some WEEE producers who, from January 1st 2019, find a range of their products now needing to be reported.

The government will be responsible for converting the figures, reported in 14 categories, into the 6 categories required by the EU. Ecosurety are a member of the WEEE Scheme Forum who will work alongside Defra to develop a methodology for converting the figures.

Robbie Staniforth policy manager at Ecosurety commented “We are glad to see that the government agrees with us and the majority of our members. Changing the reporting system would have created an unnecessary burden for producers, especially given the very short timeframe and the fact that there will not be standardised reporting across the EU."

"It is a shame that UK businesses have been left with this uncertainty for so long but we’re pleased to see the right decision has been made. We support the development of a methodology that allows the UK government to report figures to the EU in the format required.”  

Producer Balancing System

From its inception in 2016, the Producer Balancing System (PBS) has been a voluntary initiative, with most of the Producer Compliance Schemes part of the system design. To date the system has been a collaboration between Producer Compliance Schemes that has resolved the issue of WEEE arising at local authorities that do not have a contract for it.

There is a specific regulation within the WEEE regulations, regulation 34, that states: ‘In each compliance period, the operator of a designated collection facility may contact the operator of any scheme … and request that operator of a scheme arranges for the collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of the WEEE that has been deposited at a facility’.

The PBS splits the costs of these types of requests and shares them out across the member base, made up of Producer Compliance Schemes. As part of the PBS, this is a system that we have found generally works. This ensures that local authorities are not stuck with WEEE that they cannot get rid of and is in the spirit of the regulations.

What option has Defra chosen?

Defra has decided to make the PBS a mandatory requirement for other Producer Compliance Schemes who are not currently supporting the system, meaning that the split of the costs will be fairer and will ensure that it continues to be adequately funded.

Robbie commented “It’s good to see the Government agree with our substantive point that there needs to be fairness across all producers and schemes. While we are disappointed that a voluntary mechanism hasn’t worked, a market-wide balancing system will create a level playing field, whilst ensuring that all WEEE continues to be collected from local authorities."

"The WEEE regulations remain imperfect but this decision marks progress towards ensuring that the cost-burden of collecting from local authorities is shared more evenly across obligated producers.”

To discuss how either of these decisions could affect your business, please contact our team.

Dan Boyle

Key account manager

Dan joined our client services team in early 2017 and as key account manager now provides high levels of support to our compliance scheme members. His previous experience includes working for Apple as a technical expert and for IT advisory firm Gartner – it goes without saying that Dan has a love of all things tech!

Written by Dan Boyle Published 18/05/2018 Topics Consultations

Useful links

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