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Small businesses risk being left behind

Research from DHL suggests that as few as 30% of businesses affected by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive will meet today’s deadline (15 March), when all obligated companies should be registered with a Producer Compliance Scheme.

DHL’s head of WEEE services, Paul James, has branded awareness levels of the new legislation as “depressingly low,” especially among small and medium sized businesses, with up to a quarter of affected companies not even being aware of the new regime. The WEEE legislation aims to ensure that redundant electrical or electronic goods are disposed of responsibly.

Research from DHL’s recently approved WEEE compliance scheme indicates that as many as 10,000 smaller UK brand owners and importers of electrical equipment are not prepared for this new burden on their business.

Paul James, head of WEEE services at DHL, said: “Before launching our own publicity campaign on the WEEE legislation, we undertook research among smaller businesses in the UK. We were shocked by the low levels of awareness and understanding about this important new legislation that became UK law in January this year.

“Using independent agencies to undertake research into current awareness levels of the new law, we found that while most larger retailers, electrical equipment manufacturers and importers were generally well aware of the issue and progressing towards compliance, many small and medium sized importers and manufacturers of branded goods were largely in the dark over the WEEE regulations. Nearly 20% of companies we spoke to either didn’t know if they needed to register with a compliance scheme or admitted that they would miss the deadline.”

From 2007, the regulations require that producers provide for the collection and recycling of redundant electrical equipment. The responsibility of compliance will lie largely with retailers, importers, manufacturers or brand owners.

Paul James continued: “While many larger brand owners and importers are working towards compliance, many businesses run the risk of being left behind or facing fines simply due to ignorance. If these businesses do not act now, they could find themselves at a competitive disadvantage when the legislation comes fully into force and risk heavy recycling bills, or even prosecution, for non-compliance.”

Under the legislation, all retailers of electrical goods will be required to provide a free ‘take-back’ service to non-business customers who purchase a new electrical product. The customer would either bring their old product to the store when they buy a like item or, in the case of deliveries, the retailer may be expected to collect the old appliance from the customer’s house. The retailer will be responsible for covering this cost as well as delivering the WEEE to a designated collection point, the next stage in the logistical chain, to be recycled in accordance with the new regulations. Alternatively, retailers can contribute towards the funding of local authority collection infrastructure to which they can then direct their customers.

Companies who manufacture or ‘produce’ electrical or electronic products will be required to meet the costs of collection of WEEE from local authority sites as well as the treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of WEEE in accordance with the Regulations. This involves correctly documenting the type of WEEE, storing and handling it
correctly, contracting and managing appropriate recyclers and providing an auditable trail to the Environment Agency to prove that the old products have been recycled in accordance with the regulations.

For further information on DHL’s WEEE compliance scheme, please go to: www.dhl.co.uk/weee

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