Producers must accept responsibility for WEEE
Although the cut off for joining a WEEE compliance scheme passed last week, producers of electrical equipment who missed the deadline should be looking to sign up as soon as possible, rather than waiting anxiously for the Environment Agency to come calling.This was the key message of Adrian Harding, an EA policy advisor, when he spoke to an audience of industry representatives and local authority officers on Wednesday.
Speaking at a London conference organised by MRW, Mr Harding ran through the timetable leading up to WEEE Day on July 1, when producers will begin to take responsibility for financing their share of treatment and recovery of waste electrical and electronic equipment.
Last Thursday, March 15, marked the date by which all producers should have joined one of the 37 authorised compliance schemes while by next Saturday, March 31 they must have applied to be registered as a producer.
Mr Harding said that the directive was about shifting the financial burden of the treatment of waste and recovery of materials away from the tax payer and onto those who profited from the sale of the goods in the first place and that the EA was interested in ensuring that happened, not in catching out those companies which had been slow off the starting block.
"Our focus is not about notching up as many prosecutions as possible, it's about getting producers onto schemes," he said.
"Anyone who's a producer who's missed the March 15 deadline shouldn't just sit there resigned to prosecution, get yourself onto a scheme as quickly as possible."
But he warned against seeing the EA as a soft touch and said that those caught trying to evade their legal obligations could expect to be dealt with harshly.
"We will take a very dim view of any businesses that falsifies data or takes a conscious decision to deliberately not sign up to a scheme to avoid their share of the responsibility,"said Mr Harding.
He also warned against trying to dodge responsibility by shipping waste to countries where requirements were not as tough as in the EU.
"We have a shortage in capacity with recovery and recycling [of raw materials] are we're going to look to the overseas market there as we do now," he said.
"Both treatment and recovery can take place overseas but if a producer compliance scheme wants to send anything to another country it has to show that that export was legal and that the reprocessing is equivalent to what's required by the legislation here."
Guidance for producers, retailers and local authorities can be found on the WEEE pages of the EA's website which also include links to other official sources of information on the directive and its implications.