The Government has now published draft regulations, guidance and its timetable for implementation of the EC Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (referred to as WEEE) in the UK.
The Directive introduces producer responsibility for WEEE. It is intended to persuade producers to design more eco-friendly products which can be more effectively reused and recycled to reduce future levels of waste. Under the proposals, manufacturers and importers will be responsible for ensuring that they plan for both their new and existing products to be recycled rather than dumped. Producers will have to finance treatment and recycling/recovery of separately collected WEEE in the UK to specified treatment standards and recycling/recovery targets. Retailers will have an obligation to offer take-back services to householders.
The WEEE Directive covers a huge spectrum of waste products including:
- IT and telecommunications equipment;
- audiovisual and lighting equipment;
- electrical and electronic tools;
- medical devices;
- automatic dispensers;
- household appliances; and
- toys, leisure and sports equipment.
The consultation marks the beginning of the final phase of the Government's process for implementing the Directive. The key proposals are:
- a national Distributor Take-back Scheme which will establish a network of Designated Collection Facilities enabling consumers to return their used items for recycling or reuse;
- obligatory registration for producers through approved compliance schemes;
- authorised treatment facilities, which will process WEEE and provide evidence to producers of the amount of WEEE received for treatment;
- accredited reprocessing/recycling facilities which will provide evidence of reprocessing to producers;
- an end-of-year settlement to ensure producers are able to meet their obligations via an ‘exchange system’; and
- a voluntary approach for producers to show the cost of handling historical WEEE.
This legislation has been delayed on several occasions. However, affected businesses which have yet to prepare for it do now need to ensure they have plans in place ready for its implementation. The regulations are due to come into force on 1 January 2007 with the first compliance period for producers commencing on 1 April 2007. Full producer responsibility will commence on 1 July 2007.