The various stakeholders that operate under WEEE legislation prepare for their Easter break in anticipation of the appearance of the WEEE consultation expected immediately after the holidays. The major controversy revolves around the efforts to address, so far unsuccessfully, the existence of an ‘evidence’ trading floor which Producers claim is adding to their costs of compliance. The historical roots of the issue lie with the free market approach first pursued under the Packaging Regulations whereby the evidence of collection and recycling could be ‘traded’ by Producer Compliance Schemes (PCSs), who had surpassed their target, supplying schemes that had not met their target. Unfortunately such a system does not, and will never, demonstrate PCS efficiencies or performance as those stakeholders who have access to WEEE (and therefore evidence) in the first place has more to do with who holds local authority waste management PFI contracts or operate major electrical retailer chains.
David Burton, Managing Director of Strateco, commented “We predicted and highlighted this situation way back in 2004 and, through a definite strategy of not relying on evidence from local authority sites, we have ensured that many Producers are not exposed to this exploitation. I do see this as a hard nut to crack for the legislators – achieving equity for producers within a free market compliance place – I am looking forward to reviewing the options within the consultation and advising our clients accordingly”.
More than 60 suspected illegal waste sites across England were given surprise inspections by the Environment Agency in a ‘day of action’ against waste crime on 27th March. Over 100 Agency officers visited sites as part of Operation Cyclone – including scrap metal yards and major construction projects where construction waste was suspected of being disposed of unlawfully. Roadside stop and searches of vehicles were also carried out in conjunction with Police, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), British Transport Police, HMRC and Trading Standards, as well as aerial reconnaissance to check for activity at suspected illegal sites. Officers also used SmartWater to mark waste, in order to provide future evidence of whether it is dumped or exported and support potential EA prosecutions. Items with SmartWater on them can be tracked using GPS systems and the liquid also becomes visible under ultraviolet light.
David Burton, of Strateco, commented “ It is encouraging to see a tightening of regulatory enforcement when, for so long, the bonafide players have possibly been subject to over regulation because of their auditable procedures and openness – whereas any risk analysis will show that those who either operate outside the system or do not have auditable procedures carry the highest risk of compliance breaches. This also has to be seen as a clear warning to those, including some major companies, who may often allow cost considerations to overcome their duty of care when it comes to waste disposal”.
The UK’s WEEE collection rate rose fractionally in 2012, despite lower actual collections, but aided by a fall in the tonnage of new products placed onto the market, data published by the Environment Agency last week has shown.
The provisional figures show that the total collection rate for household and non-household waste electrical and electronic equipmentreached 35.37% for 2012 compared to a total collection rate of 34.41% achieved in 2011. This is despite the actual tonnage of material collected falling, from 517,142 tonnes in 2011, to 504,563 tonnes last year. However, the collection rate has remained higher as the tonnage of new products placed onto the market has also fallen by over 76,000 tonnes in 2012. Meanwhile, the figures show that the recorded collection of WEEE generated by businesses (B2B) remained at a similar low level as during previous years.
Responding to the latest figures, David Burton, Managing Director of Strateco Ltd, said that data collection methods should be altered to ensure that the actual level of B2B WEEE collection is recorded. He said: “The so-called low collection rates of B2B WEEE remaining unchanged at around 5% clearly demonstrates the inadequacy of the current system of counting what happens to end-of-life equipment from the non-household sector. Much B2B EEE is either collected for refurbishment, or deployed under extensive long term maintenance contracts. In the latter case such EEE is subject to constant updating and, ultimately, stripped for spares – in all circumstances the spare parts are out of scope and the discarded shells, not being complete products, are not WEEE by definition. In all reality the collection rate of B2B WEEE and Used EEE is probably on a par with the B2C sector but the majority is simply not being captured by the current data collection methodology.”
The outcome of the Judicial Review into the separate collection of recyclables definition within the Waste Framework Directive came earlier than expected when the judge’s ruling, after only a few days consideration, means that councils can continue to operate commingled collections of recyclable material including paper, glass, plastic and metal –much the chagrin of some market players including Ardagh Glass, DS Smith Paper, Novelis UK, Palm Recycling, Smurfit Kappa and UK Recyclate.
In setting out their argument last month the claimants’ said that the ‘legal heart’ of the case was the differing interpretation of the Directive, while the ‘factual heart’ was the desire of waste management companies to ‘preserve a regime’ where materials are collected together at the kerbside and separated at materials recycling facilities (MRFs) to the financial gain of the waste management companies. It is now possible that the claimants will appeal against the judge’s ruling.
A verdict on Defra’s interpretation of the Waste Framework Directive on commingled recycling collections is due within weeks, after the Judicial Review hearing at Cardiff Administrative Court ended.
While the hearing had been scheduled to last four days it ended after only two after both sides had presented their cases to the judge who has now retired to consider his verdict – which could take up to a month. The judge heard representations from Defra, the Welsh Government, members of the Campaign for Real Recycling, the Environmental Services Association and Local Government Association.
The key issue revolves around the definition of ‘separate’ collection of recyclables in that the quality and extraction of recyclables drawn from either mixed recyclables collections (co-mingled) or from separation-at-source (by the householder) varies and the interests of the markets, and established systems, can often conflict. David Burton, Managing Director of Strateco, who has not been involved in the JR but who launched some of the first recyclables collection from UK householders commented “ Ensuring market outlets and optimum pricing for recyclates rests upon extracting high quality high volume secondary raw materials this is achieved most effectively, but with higher collection costs where much of the sorting has been done, voluntarily, by the householder and, further more separate streams of individual recyclates reduce cross contamination. Going for co-mingled collections, while indicating higher volume and lower collection costs, put pressures on the MRF sorting capabilities and often lead to higher rejection rates with risks of unsorted recyclate going back to landfill”.
Both the Environment Agency and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have welcomed the official launch of a reuse specification for used electrical items which is expected to make it easier to identify illegal shipments of WEEE.
The PAS 141 specification has been developed by industry experts working with BIS and will be awarded to ‘treatment’ facilities who comply with best practice in preparing used electrical items for reuse. The standard was officially launched on 27th February following the appointment of an assessment body to issue accreditation to treatment facilities – generally those who hold waste management licences. Treatment operators will be audited to ensure compliance with the standard on testing, dismantling, refurbishing and transporting used equipment. The auditing of premises that collect used EEE, which is not defined as waste, does not appear to be addressed and, as the standard is not a compulsory requirement, there are many companies, particularly in the IT refurbishment field, which will not be affected. It is thought, however, that PAS 141 could make it easier for regulators to identify illegal exports of WEEE which are often masked as legal shipments of electrical goods for reuse, as well as reassuring end users over quality. EU waste shipment guidelines call for a ‘test’ to differentiate between reuse and the illegal exports of waste it fails and it is hoped that PAS 141 will meet this requirement.
A group representing Europe’s WEEE recyclers has called for European governments to use the transposition of the Recast WEEE Directive to capture the ‘large flows’ of WEEE that it claims are currently not being counted towards recycling targets.
According to a report on Europe’s WEEE regimes released jointly by the European Electronics Recyclers Association (EERA), lighting manufacturing body LightingEurope and digital technology group DIGITALEUROPE, as much as one third of WEEE is being recycled outside of producer take-back schemes. In the report, the groups call for enforcement of mandatory reporting obligations for all permitted reprocessors of WEEE in order to meet targets being brought in under the Recast. The groups claim that currently the average WEEE collection rate among EU Member States is around a third, but research suggests that another third is being collected by treatment operators and not being reported.
One UK Producer Compliance Scheme, B2B Compliance, has responded by referring to the achievement of the new recycling targets by purely counting WEEE only as unrealistic, because the vast majority of non-household used EEE doesn’t end up as WEEE in the first place. David Burton stated “ Much used EEE is either resold to added value markets, often for exports, or stripped for spares until there is nothing left that can be defined as WEEE. Without the use of ‘Substantiated Estimates’, allowed within the Directive, and the creation of protocols for estimating weights and categories going down these other routes, we will not be capturing a true picture of what happens to used electrical and electronic equipment”.
The Managing Director of Strateco addressed members of the Solar Trade Association at a strategy meeting hosted in London on 12th February.
The presentation, entitled the Potential Challenges of the WEEE Regulations, flagged up significant cost issues for the photovoltaic (PV) sector which could arise from the transposition of the Recast WEEE Directive into UK legislation. David Burton re-assured the audience, however, that positive meetings have been held with BIS by PV CYCLE and its representatives in the UK – PV CYCLE supported by 90% of the European PV market.
David Burton assured STA members that guidance and advice would be provided as the WEEE consultation takes place in March.
The Managing Director of Strateco, David Burton, will be giving a presentation on the ‘Potential Impact of the WEEE Regulations’ to a range of Photovoltaic ‘Producers’ (A Producer is a PV company that directly imports) at the next Solar Trade Assoc Strategy meeting on 12th February.
The meeting, which will be held in London, will also have an update from DECC on FITs and a presentation by the STA on a wide range of subjects.
Further details and free booking can be found at http://www.solar-trade.org.uk/events.cfm?id=120
The Environment Agency has launched an investigation into an alleged illegal shipment of waste electrical and electronic equipment from Tilbury docks to Nigeria. Two containers have been impounded at the docks in Nigeria and the Nigerian authorities have ordered that the containers be returned to the UK, and have issued a $1million (£632,000) fine to the shipping company with the ship being detained until the fine has been paid.
The cargo, which was shipped from Tilbury in December, consisted of used electrical and electronic equipment including televisions and computer equipment but had no certification showing it was reusable. Increasingly it is becoming a requirement for documentation either reflecting Annex VI of the Reacst Directive or PAS 141 certification.
While the source of the waste has not yet been revealed the Environment Agency said: “We have concerns about two containers suspected to be ‘e-waste’ that were shipped out via Tilbury to Lagos on the MV Marivia. We are keeping in touch with the Nigerian authorities and continuing our investigations in the UK.” It is thought that the action taken by the Nigerian authorities against the shipping company will make it increasingly difficult for shipping companies to accept used EEE – even if bona fide.