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Industry to tackle 2 million tonne electrical waste problem

Industry to tackle 2 million tonne electrical waste problem

DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, ENTERPRISE AND REGULATORY REFORM News Release (2007/003) issued by The Government News Network on 29 June 2007

WEEE Regulations come into effect on 1 July

New legal obligations on the electrical industry will from Sunday 1 July start to see more waste products recycled and not consigned to the scrap heap. Last year 2 million tonnes of electrical waste was generated in the UK alone, enough to fill the new Wembley Stadium six times over.

The introduction of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations means that manufacturers, importers and retailers of domestic appliances, office equipment and other goods will be required to ensure the proper disposal of old products.

From this Sunday, business and household consumers buying electrical products, from toasters and computers, through to mobile phones and televisions, will be offered free take-back of old products, either in store, through collection or at a local amenity site thanks to the introduction of these Regulations.

Putting the responsibility on the electrical industry will mean the eventual recycling of products being considered at design stage, it will incentivise the industry to provide consumers with more options for returning old products, it will encourage the reuse of products and it will help create a valuable market in recycled materials.

In the six-months since the laying of the Regulations, the Government has worked closely with industry to set up the various components of a flexible and viable national electrical waste system. This includes:

* A Distributor Takeback Scheme (operated by Valpak) to provide retailers with a cost-effective alternative to in-store takeback.

* A network of designated collection facilities (DCFs) with 1,450 collection points nationwide. 1050 are public collection points and a further 400 are private.

* The approval of 37 producer compliance schemes to administer the collection, treatment and certification of waste on behalf of producers.

* The appointment of enforcement bodies. The Environment Agencies will ensure producer compliance, while the Vehicle Certification Agency will police retailer compliance.

* Approval of 142 approved authorised treatment facilities (AATFs)

The new system offers flexibility for both producers and retailers to find the best means to meet their obligations. Producers can either join one of the 37 compliance schemes, or they can set up their own. Retailers may join the Distributor Takeback Scheme or they can make their own arrangement via in-store take-back.

The Regulations complement and make use of the existing civic-amenity capacity to handle electronic waste. This is already one of the most robust in Europe, successfully processing fridges, televisions and large kitchen appliances for a number of years.

Over the next six months, the Government will continue to support awareness-raising amongst existing and new producers, to encourage them to participate fully in the UK WEEE system. As part of this system we will also be appointing of an independent WEEE Advisory Body to assess the effectiveness of the Regulations and keep them under review.

The Regulations will be enforced proportionately by the environment agencies. The priority is to get unregistered producers into compliance schemes so that they can make an appropriate contribution to the system. However, enforcement action will be taken against any business that seeks an advantage by flouting the rules.

Notes to editors:

1. For more information:

* Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Regulations visit: http://www.dti.gov.uk/innovation/sustainability/weee/page30269.html

* Treatment permitting requirements and waste management licensing exemptions visit: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/topics/electrical/index.htm

* Environment Agency:
http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/1745440/444663/1106248/

2. The WEEE Directive aims to address the environmental impact of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and to promote its separate collection when it becomes waste (WEEE). WEEE is a priority waste stream for the EU because of its growing volume in the municipal waste stream and its potential hazardousness following disposal.

3. The Directive introduces producer responsibility for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). 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 have an obligation to offer take-back services to householders. The Directive does not place any obligations on householders, and they will be not be prohibited from throwing WEEE away with general domestic rubbish. It will however encourage more WEEE to be reused or recycled by ensuring that there is a network of facilities in place where householders can return their used equipment free of charge.

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