The comments emerged at a roundtable discussion, hosted by REPIC in London this week, as the industry prepares for the introduction of the new regulations in January 2014. All stakeholders present expressed their intent to work together to enable a smooth transition.
The session was attended by representatives from REPIC, Recolight and ERP, as well as the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO), Viridor and the Environmental Services Association (ESA), HP and Panasonic on behalf of the producer community, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and chaired by Peter Jones director of consultancy Ecolateral.
Under the new system of which details were published earlier this month, local authorities will be given the option to directly treat individual WEEE streams – for which they will be able to retain any revenue that may be received as a result. Producer compliance schemes will be required to treat streams which the council opts not to manage, regardless of whether they need the tonnage to meet collection obligations.
Speaking at the roundtable, BIS official Graeme Vickery said that the measure was intended to give local authorities ‘greater flexibility’ over how they choose to treat WEEE in the future.
‘What we are doing is giving local authorities a choice they don’t have at the moment. This introduces a degree of flexibility into the system and if the economics of local authorities self treating WEEE stack up then they can do it.’
Graeme Vickery, BIS
He said: “What we are doing is giving local authorities a choice they don’t have at the moment. This introduces a degree of flexibility into the system and if the economics of local authorities self treating WEEE stack up then they can do it.”
Hannah Rogers, senior contracts officer for West Sussex county council and a member of NAWDO, said that councils viewed the move as ‘positive’ but added that there are still ‘a number of unknowns’ that might prevent the majority of local authorities from opting to self treat WEEE from January 2014.
And, she commented that a ‘one size fits all approach’ would not be practical for the majority of local authorities, due to vast differences in contractual arrangements currently in place between councils, contractors and compliance schemes across the country.
Phil Morton, chief executive of REPIC added that producers supported this formalisation of pre-existing informal agreements as well as welcoming the freedom of choice it gave to Local Authorities.
He also claimed that local authorities opting to self-treat could still do this via their waste management contractor or compliance scheme which would help to ensure that material that may have escaped the WEEE system previously could be counted towards capture rates in future.
He said: “If producers thought that they could attract all the material that had value they would welcome that but that is not practical. The sensible approach is to say that streams that are self propelling should be allowed to carry on as long as the WEEE is properly treated and counted in the UK Member State target.”
Discussion also centered on the need for a ‘robust’ compliance fee to be set which would ensure that compliance schemes are incentivised to meet their collection targets. Under the plans put forward by the government, compliance schemes will be given a tonnage target in proportion to the total market share of their members during the previous year.
Schemes collecting less than their target will have the option to pay a ‘compliance fee’ per tonne of WEEE for the shortfall as an alternative means of compliance or face sanctions for non-compliance, while those with a surplus of WEEE will be required to finance the excess or retain the income.
It is thought that the system would encourage schemes to collect WEEE in proportion to the amount they are obligated to secure on behalf of their members, and eliminate the trade in evidence which is said to have increased the cost for businesses to comply with the regulations.
According to Simon Eves, general manager of environmental affairs at electronics producer Panasonic, ensuring that the compliance fee is calculated at the appropriate level will be key to ensuring that the new system works.
He said: “The compliance fee is a crucial aspect of this option to work properly. If the fee is set too low it will create certain problems and will not achieve the aims that it sets out to do.”
A methodology which will determine how the compliance fee is set to be produced, with compliance schemes to be informed how much they will be liable to pay if the target is missed- which will be changed from year to year.
The panel was agreed that setting the fee at the appropriate level was important to making the system work and agreed that it needed to be set using a transparent methodology, possibly on a scale reflecting of the deviation from the individual PCS collection target.
Scott Butler, managing director of compliance scheme ERP UK, commented that if the new system works properly, all schemes will collect enough WEEE to enable them to meet their targets, without the need for a compliance fee to be charged.
He said: “If the system is successful there should not be any fee. Local authorities should be getting the support they need and if we are doing our jobs correctly there should be no money in that pot at the end of the year.”
Delegates also debated whether the system would encourage a greater level of reuse of used electrical goods than is currently seen in the UK, and how stakeholders could work together to encourage greater levels of WEEE collection.
The government has given stakeholders until November 1 to comment on the proposed changes – with further guidance set to be published in the coming months.