WEEE manufacturers outline case for visible recycling charge

A visible, flat-rate charge on new consumer electronics to pay for the recycling of old ones is the best way to fund their safe and sustainable disposal, according to manufacturers.

An environmental recycling charge (ERC) of this kind would, argues an alliance of trade associations, educate consumers about the need to dispose of end-of-life goods in a sustainable way whilst avoiding the potential mark-up and taxation of a ‘hidden’ charge as products moved from the production line to the shop floor.

Under the EU’s Waste Electronics and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) Directive, producers are responsible for the collection and recycling of the millions of devices already in people’s homes, from TVs and PCs to washing machines and fridges.

Somehow, this has got to be paid for and, say the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA), the Intellect CE Council, the Radio, Electrical and Television Retailers Association (RETRA) and the Small Electrical Appliance Marketing Association (SEAMA), the British manufacturing industry cannot afford to simply absorb the cost, which is expected to be between £175m and £200m a year.

The solution, claim the trade associations, is to follow the model adopted in Ireland, the Netherlands and other European states and introduce an ERC which would be the same across the board and inform the consumer.

Without this, they maintain, manufacturers will be forced to simply increase the price of goods as they roll off the production line and then there will be a mark up as those transporting the products, retailers and the taxman all take a cut.

Contrary to the fears of some of the major retailers, consumers would not, according to Uwe Halleck, chairman of AMDEA, balk at the idea of paying a modest environmental charge that was clearly marked as such.

“This is not about making money, this is about ensuring that we create a better environment for everybody,” he said.

“We’re not shying away from this, we’re more than happy to live up to our responsibility.

“We believe ERC is the only way that the cost of historic waste can be shared amongst those who have benefited from its sale and this view is supported by the overwhelming majority of manufacturers.”

Mark Hayward, chief executive of RETRA, a body that represents many of the smaller retailers, said: “We want a system that is easy to explain and is applied equally across small and large retailers. An ERC is less complicated and cheaper for our members, which are often small, family owned affairs. We want to ensure customers understand what they are paying for – an ERC will do that.”

While manufacturers are reluctant to predict exactly how much extra consumers will be paying for their products if an ERC is implemented, as it is dependent on the costs and the amount of historic waste collected, in Ireland the charge is 10 Euro for large white goods, and less for smaller products, while in the Netherlands customers pay an extra 17 Euro for fridges and freezers, 5 Euro for smaller goods like televisions.

Sam Bond

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