Nigel Harvey, chief executive of Recolight, explains why UK businesses must step up to the recycling challenge and ensure that their waste lamps are disposed of correctly in order to meet the requirements of the higher WEEE recycling targets
There is a tremendous amount of regulation these days that UK businesses have to deal with, and waste regulations like the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Regulations can be particularly confusing and burdensome.
However, compliance with these regulations is vitally important to ensure businesses are in a good position to face the higher targets that will be introduced in the not too distant future.
The WEEE Regulations came into force in the UK in July 2007, and were designed to ensure that this waste stream is kept out of landfill. Under the regulations the producer of electrical equipment has a responsibility to finance the recycling of their products when they reach end of life, which they do by joining a compliance scheme, like Recolight, which manages this process on their behalf.
Gas discharge lamps (GDLs), which include fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent lamps, and high intensity discharge lamps are all in the scope of the WEEE Regulations and therefore have to be recycled when they reach end of life. As GDLs contain a small amount of mercury they are also classed as hazardous waste, making it even more essential to manage the disposal of lighting in an environmentally sustainable way.
The WEEE Regulations have recently been revised to oblige member states to meet much higher targets. From 2016, the target will rise from the current 4kg of WEEE per head of the population to 45% of the average tonnage of electrical equipment put on the market over the previous three years.
In 2019, it moves up to 65%. Currently, the average percentage of business waste that is recorded as recycled business WEEE is very low - in 2011 it was just five percent. Achieving these ambitious targets will require every part of the supply chain to do their part. However, there is much recycling, reuse and refurbishment of old business equipment that takes place but is not recorded in the WEEE figures.
This may therefore mean that the government will need to implement new reporting requirements, so that all the data on the recycling, reuse or refurbishment that currently takes place in businesses is properly captured.
The changes also include a wider scope - from 2018 the directive changes from a ‘closed’ scope which defines certain products that need to comply, to an ‘open’ scope, which instead lists those products which are exempted from the directive.
The UK has until February 2014 to legislate and implement the new directive. The Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) has indicated that the formal consultation on the new regulations is likely to be launched around March 2013.
As well as incorporating these revisions, the draft regulations are also likely to take into account a review of the costs associated with the UK WEEE system. This follows the government’s investigation into regulatory burdens on businesses, known as the ‘Red Tape Challenge’, in which producers raised concerns regarding the costs of WEEE compliance. They have already announced a number of short term measures, including proposals to publish details of producer compliance schemes’ WEEE recycling obligations so that producers and local authorities can judge whether the schemes are over or under collecting consumer WEEE.
BIS also launched a ‘call for evidence’ (now closed) on WEEE compliance for consumer waste. The government is expected to use the data from the call for evidence to consider how best to change the UK’s consumer WEEE system.
As a producer compliance scheme for waste lamps, Recolight strongly supports the increase in targets within the new directive. Thanks to the commitment of all in the lamp supply chain, the recycling rate for business waste lamps already exceeds 35%, and so a 45% target should be achievable. Whether a company has tens of thousands of old gas discharge lamps, or just a few to recycle now and again, Recolight can help them keep compliant by providing free of charge recycling services.
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