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Opinion Piece WEEE seminars a sucessby James Skidmore, Business Development Manager, Valpak

Valpak has pioneered a series of seminars aimed at engaging local authorities in Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) related issues. How successful have they been?

As the UK's leading provider of compliance and recycling services, we have been fast to communicate the full range of support and services that we have to offer for all obligated businesses including both large and small retailers. As the appointed operator of the UK's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Distributor Take Back Scheme (DTS), we are also responsible for compiling a register of Designated Collection Facilities (DCFs) for WEEE, and engaged in the collection of funds for distribution to local authorities.

Under the UK WEEE regulations, any business that supplies electrical and electronic equipment directly to the public, including both traditional and online retailers, will be considered an EEE 'distributor' (retailer). Distributors will have two options available to them, either to offer in-store take back of WEEE for all equipment that they sell, or join the DTS. By joining the DTS, retailers are in effect, opting out of in-store take back requirements by contributing toward a fund that will be used to assist the Government in the enhancement of the UK's WEEE collection facilities.

We have been holding a series of seminars for local authorities in order to outline some of the most up-to-date issues surrounding the collection of WEEE, registration of sites, and the distribution of DTS funding. For local authorities, this has involved explaining both the benefits of participation and in particular what they can expect to receive from the DTS and producers. We have also described the obligations that will be placed on them under the new regulations. It is our priority to ensure that local authorities are aware of the role that they will play in establishing a network of DCFs. It is equally important to us, to describe the options that are available to potential DTS members, and the role that they will play in contributing to that local authority network, should they choose to join.

So far the seminars have been a tremendous success. 95% of local authorities in Wales have registered to attend, followed by 88% in Northern Ireland and 86% in England.

The demand has been such that an additional seminar has now been announced and will be held in London on the 23rd of February. Any local authority that wishes to attend can register at www.valpak.co.uk.

What are 'distributors' required to do?

Distributors who pay into the WEEE scheme will be exempt from any in-store take back of WEEE items until at least December 2009. During this time, collected funds will be passed to the local authorities and invested to assist in the enhancement of the overall collection infrastructure for WEEE in the UK. The responsibility for this infrastructure resides with the UK central government. The government has requested that each of those retailers who will not be offering in-store take back, contribute toward a total fixed fund of £10m. This will be distributed amongst Local Authorities and allocated on a 'per Civic Amenity' (CA) site basis.

However, the regulations require that those distributors who do not pay into the DTS will be obliged to provide a full in-store take back service for all WEEE products, based on the equipment that they sell. It is important to note that the regulations are 'all-inclusive' and therefore do not distinguish between large and small items. Additionally, all WEEE collected by distributors who are offering in-store take back will need to be stored and transported to a treatment facility at their cost. Depending on the type of material or complexity of treatment, a valid waste license may be required. As such, retailers who do not pay into the scheme will risk penalty and prosecution if they are unable to offer, or prove the existence of, a full in-store take back service on all products sold.

What are the benefits of joining the DTS?

At Valpak, we have over ten years experience in delivering competitive solutions to over 4,000 businesses in the UK. Valpak's compliance services give both peace of mind and step-by-step support to 'distributors'. The Valpak WEEE Scheme is tailored to meet the specific compliance needs of each member.

Distributors who join our scheme will be offered full exemption from in-store take back. Large equipment may be collected on the delivery of new goods and such data will be fed into the WEEE system at authorised treatment facilities. In addition, members will also benefit from access to a specific Valpak brand, including the logo, as a stamp of national compliance and assurance for all marketing and business support materials.

Which issues should local authorities start thinking about now?

All WEEE that is collected from the public by local authorities (including hazardous materials) at CA sites (or equivalent, such as household waste recycling centres) will be passed to producers, who will be responsible for arranging and funding the transport, treatment and recycling of all equipment (so long as these sites are registered with the DTS or DCFs). All recycling of equipment collected through registered CA sites, household waste recycling centres, or bulky waste collections, that is undertaken by producers will count towards meeting local authority annual waste and recycling targets.

The success of the collection network for WEEE will depend on the willingness of everyone involved to participate, and most notably the public. We don't know how the public will react to the introduction of the UK regulations, although we can presume that announcements will inspire and encourage public participation. To further enhance this participation, the DTS is required to assist our members in educating the public as to the availability of collection facilities once the system is up and running.

How will local authority WEEE collection points and recycling sites be funded?

All volunteered WEEE material collected at DCFs, which are CA sites, or through bulky waste collections will need to be removed and sent for onward treatment and recycling by producers.

The interaction between producers (or more correctly, their compliance schemes) and local authorities at these sites will governed by a framework Code of Practice, as agreed between local authority representatives and producer schemes. Any WEEE material from sites that are not registered as DCFs within the WEEE system will still be subject to existing legislation covering the disposal of hazardous waste, and each local authority will be required to continue to meet the cost of onward transportation and treatment.

Valpak would like to urge local authorities to fully consider the benefits of registering their CA sites and bulky waste collections as DCFs, in line with previous advice offered by the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC). Registration will ensure that funding is obtained from the DTS, and allow producers to comply with WEEE regulations by taking responsibility for all collected WEEE.

Valpak, as the operator of the DTS, would like to encourage Local Authorities to register their sites as DCFs by the end of March 2007.

www.valpak.co.uk.

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