Since 2007 the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive has made manufacturers responsible for financing, collecting and disposing of electrical equipment in an environmentally friendly way. 
 
The amount each manufacturer pays depends their market share, by weight. However, some companies avoid making any payments when they sell through online marketplaces. 
Latest study of WEEE non-compliance 
This month EucoLight, the association that looks at WEEE compliance for lighting across Europe, has published the results of a multi-national study into WEEE non-compliance of products sold through online marketplaces. The study covered over 4,200 products sold online in 10 European countries. 
 
National WEEE requirements were not being met for a wide range of products. However, for smaller products that are easy to transport and store such as LED lightbulbs, non-compliance was a high as 78 to 100%. 
 
The impact of WEEE non-compliance 
Manufacturers who are avoiding their WEEE responsibilities are having a big impact on the sector: 
they have a competitive advantage over compliant companies 
companies that are meeting their obligations have to pay more, because fewer companies fund the recycling 
as online sales increase the long-term funding needed to maintain the WEEE system is compromised. 
 
Making WEEE work 
Currently, a producer based in China, for example, can store stock in the UK, ready for next-day delivery on online orders. 
 
The parent company in China still owns the product and UK and EU law can’t be enforced. The distribution company and the online marketplace can say that they aren’t responsible for compliance. 
 
A number of countries, including the UK, are looking for ways to tackle the problem. Making online platforms with multiple sellers responsible for compliance is one simple solution. The number of organisations reporting data will be reduced, making audit checks and monitoring easier. 
 
The Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (Defra) is considering a voluntary arrangement between the major online marketplaces, which could be introduced more quickly than changes to regulations. However, UK-based producers must meet the WEEE directive, so this would create a two-tier system. 
 
In response to Defra’s recent consultation on WEEE, three quarters of those who replied said that the current regulations had ‘no’ or ‘low’ impact on this problem. 
 
Changes to tackle this problem might be included in the new Resources and Waste Strategy and the UK’s WEEE regulations in the future. 
Tagged as: Recycling
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