In a recent address to waste industry delegates at the House of Commons the Recycling Minister, Lord de Mauley, said that the waste sector has “huge potential” to contribute to the UK’s economic recovery, by helping to secure vital raw materials for manufacturers.
He said: “The resources sector has huge potential to contribute to the economic growth while helping the environment. By using resources more efficiently we can ensure that materials are reused, remanufactured or recycled, and at the same time, we can improve the resilience of our manufacturing sector.”
He pointed to the Green Investment Bank as a key driver for growth in the sector – adding that waste projects are among the priority areas for investment. The Minister also urged the waste industry to contribute to DEFRA’s forthcoming call for evidence on a waste prevention plan, due to be issued in the coming weeks.
Following the success of an earlier meeting in December the Solar Trade Association is hosting another event on Tuesday 29th January at the offices of Osborne Clarke in London from 10.30am to 1pm. DECC will attend this meeting to give a market update on the PV Strategy, the Renewables roadmap and an overall summary of the RO banding review for PV and a latest update in developing the solar strategy.
There will also be an update on topical legal and regulatory issues which are currently facing the sector. This event will be open to anyone with an interest in non-domestic/large scale PV projects and there is NO charge for the event but entry will only be allowed for those that have pre-booked through firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaking to waste industry delegates in the House of Commons on 22nd January the Recycling Minister Lord de Mauley commented that, while DEFRA would work to ensure that regulation does not provide uncertainty to investors by creating an ‘uneven playing field’, he said: “Proportionate regulation is vital to protect the environment and there must be a level playing field for investors to have confidence. Waste operators who are flouting the law will not be tolerated. The Environment Agency is dealing with issues including illegal waste exports and incidents where waste is dumped illegally. DEFRA is working to ensure that that the level of fines for acts of illegal dumping do act as a deterrent.”
There has been particular focus in 2012 on illegal WEEE exports and, more recently, of suspected fraud at a number of recyclers’ sites and the Minister’s comments are clearly indicating a more rigorous approach by Government.
The Joint Trades Association, comprising a number of key trade bodies and their members affected by the WEEE Regulations, have formally stated their unanimous support for the use of ‘substantiated estimates’ to assist the UK in reaching the forthcoming WEEE collection targets.
The development of ‘protocols’, as a mechanism for calculating activities that take place outside of the WEEE system, was first proposed to BIS by Strateco back in 2011 and Managing Director, David Burton, has expressed his appreciation at the announced support “ It is widely accepted that about two thirds of collection activity related to WEEE or used EEE occurs outside of the regulated system and while much of it is bona fide it currently do not count towards the targets – our proposals to develop protocols to achieve a sufficiently robust count, without the excessive costs that would relate to trying to regulate extra-WEEE activities, have gained significant credence following the support of the Joint Trades Association”.
Following our 7th November posting on the free rider project – the attempt to identify companies avoiding their Producer obligations under WEEE – the consultants have reported a significant number of companies, potentially up to 13,500, described as free riders.
The results are very questionable and appear to be significantly too high which has led the Environment Agency to temper its response by indicating that the numbers were an extrapolation from a very small sample and may related to very small companies. Nevertheless one area identified in the report is that of toy importers and an exercise is now being conducted with Suffolk Trading Standards to identify imported toys coming in through ports which may trigger Producer obligations on the importers.
While free riders continue to be identified there appears to be little evidence of prosecution or sanctions by the various regulators – much to the chagrin of Producer Compliance Schemes and their members.
The household WEEE recycling rate for the first three quarters of 2012 has dipped slightly when compared to the same period in 2011, according to Environment Agency data. They indicate that the UK is still significantly short of meeting a 45% recycling rate required in 2016.
The data shows that the tonnage of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collected between January and September 2012 fell to 368,527 tonnes, compared to 380,915 tonnes for the same period in 2011. The amount of B2B WEEE collected throughout the first nine months of 2012 also fell in comparison to the same period in 2011. A total of 103,705 tonnes was collected, down from 108,101 tonnes in 2011.
As the tonnages collected in January to September 2012 remain broadly similar to the same period in 2011, during which time the UK achieved a 38% collection rate, the UK still appears to be short of the 45% target set out under the WEEE Recast, set to come into effect from 2016.
The figures come despite collections in the third quarter of 2012 reaching an annual high. However, the total amount of new equipment entering the market has also fallen, from more than 790,000 tonnes between January and September in 2011, compared to just over 780,000 tonnes for the same period in 2012. This extends a trend seen over the last four years, thought to have been caused in part by falling consumption resulting from global financial problems as well as manufacturers opting to replace older products with lighter-weight equivalents.
However, collections in the small household appliances category, which includes items such as vacuum cleaners, irons, and toasters – seen to be among the key groups in which an upturn in collection rates will be needed for the Recast targets to be met – has risen, up to 25,291 tonnes collected between January and September 2012 from 24,223 tonnes for the same period in 2011.
There are still challenges to be faced to meet the new targets under the Recast of the WEEE Directive as indicated by the latest statistics, BIS and other stakeholders are continuing to work to find solutions to meeting the potential targets.
The November edition of Solar Business Focus, the magazine for professionals in the solar business, features an article by Strateco chairman, David Burton, which addresses a number of issues that could impact upon the photovoltaics sector under forthcoming WEEE Regulations.
Unless the rules under current legislation are changed it could mean significant upfront costs for those companies which import solar panels into the UK – ultimately ending with higher costs for the consumer – but with no effective use of the funds raised for the collection of waste PV panel as little or no waste is currently being generated.
The full article can be read here (Solar Business Focus – Strateco article Nov 12).
Following discovery of illegal shipments of WEEE to Nigeria, Ghana and Pakistan several operators have recently received substantial fines at the Crown Court.
Crucial to the cases was the issue of liability and the appeal ruling was that strict liability did apply at all stages of the chain and it was no defence to say someone else in the chain had carried out tests on the waste electrical items to ensure they met export rules. While the judge ruled that there is a legitimate trade of secondhand goods certain steps must be taken to ensure that electronic and electrical items must not be waste. At what point the liability doesn’t apply what not made clear – particularly in the light of material being found abroad (not connected with this case) that has been sourced from hospitals, police forces and local authorities etc…
While Andy Higham, manager of the Environment Agency’s national crime team, stated that the duty of care is there to ensure that methods for dealing with end of life goods are proper and the meet the demands of environmental regulations he didn’t elaborate that the duty of care is, primarily, a responsibility of the waste generator.
A ban on cash payments for scrap metal at recyclers’ yards in England and Wales comes into force on 3rd December which means that payments for scrap metal must be made electronically or by cheque as payment by cash is now a criminal offence and can result in fines, with higher fines set out for more serious breaches of the law. The Act also increases police powers to enter scrap metal yards in order to check whether the ban on cash payments is being complied with. If recyclers are found to be in breach of the ban they, the employee responsible for making the payment and any management staff who have failed to take reasonable steps to prevent payment being made will all be guilty of an offence. Some commentators have expressed concern that a cash ban exemption has been made for itinerant collectors who, while needing to be registered with the local authority are also exempt from certain record keeping requirements. It is not known if, or by what degree, the ban will have on the amount of leakage of waste electrical and electronic equipment from the regulated ‘WEEE system’ – only time will tell.
David Burton, Chairman of Strateco, used the opportunity of his recent presentation to the ERA Conference to outline the potential challenges facing the photovoltaics sector as PV modules are brought into scope of the forthcoming WEEE Regulations.
He explained that PV modules would represent the heaviest category of EEE being installed in the household and yet virtually no units were being received as waste – and none at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs). For this reason, he argued, the PV sector should be treated as a special case under the WEEE Regulations, and not be made to bear the costs, on a market share basis, of EEE placed on the market – otherwise there would be a huge risk of swingeing financial penalties which could have a devastating impact upon the sector.
He explained that other member states appear prepared to view PV panels as a ‘B2B’ product and apply the B2B rules – so that Producers were only obligated when replacing or when their wheeled bin marked product appeared as waste.