BERR says WEEE needs tweaking

The Government has proposed changes to the way in which electronic goods are recycled and hopes that the move will reduce the administrative burden on businesses.

Businesses must recycle electronic and electrical goods under the UK's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations, which were passed to bring the UK into line with a European Union directive.

The Regulations have been in force for 18 months and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has said that improvements must be made to the way the Regulations are implemented. It has begun a consultation with business on the proposed changes.

The European Commission has also published proposals this month to review and amend WEEE rules, but BERR said that it would consult seperately on those changes.

The Government wants to reduce the amount of information that has to be sent by recyclers to environment agencies, allow the Distributor Take-back Scheme to continue to operate, and allow schemes operated on behalf of producers of waste to operate without constantly seeking re-approval.

"My priority is to streamline the system and build on the successful implementation of the existing regulations, while reducing the administrative burden placed on businesses by the requirements for demonstrating compliance," said Business and Economic Minister, Ian Pearson.

"We are now almost eighteen months into the UK WEEE system and I am very pleased to see that some real and impressive achievements have been made," said Pearson. "Now is an appropriate time to consider the lessons we have learned and look at how we can revise the regulations in order to move forward."

Helen Keele is an expert on the WEEE Regulations at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, and she said that the changes would be welcomed.

"They are necessary reforms to make the collection and recycling of waste and the licensing and scheme processes work more efficiently and in a way which people can plan around," she said. "It does need some fine tuning."

Producers mostly have collective responsibility for waste collection and recycling, and the Government said that it still believed this to be the most efficient approach. It said, though, that it sought ideas from industry on how to increase the individual producers' responsibility for waste.

Producer Compliance Schemes (PCS) will meet with lighter regulation under the proposals because they will no longer have to reapply every year for permission to operate.

Schemeswill still have to submit plans on how they intend to operate, though. The Government has said in its consultation that it wants PCS to do more to collect small electric and electronic waste, which is still largely thrown away by consumers in domestic waste.

"Producer Compliance Schemes need to do more to ensure the collection of small WEEE," it said. "One aspect of this is publicity. Raising consumer awareness of the options available to them for the disposal of WEEE in an environmentally friendly and responsible manner, particularly smaller items, remains a significant challenge for Government and industry."

The consultation will close on 6 April next year, and the Government hopes to lay revised Regulations before Parliament in spring of next year. The Regulationswill come into force before 1 January 2010.