The move to update WEEE classification

20 September 2018

Joanna Ketteley

EU member states had until 15 August to update waste classification rules under the WEEE Directive. Joanna Ketteley explains what has changed and how the UK plans to implement the amendments.

Household luminaries will be considered WEEE from 2019.

What are the aims of the amendments?

Under the revised Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, which entered into force in August 2012, member states were required to switch to an ‘open scope’ system of classifying such wastes by 15 August this year.

This means all electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is now covered under the directive and classified according to a more streamlined set of categories.

The European Commission hopes the new system will eliminate problems arising as a result of member states classifying waste differently, as well as lead to increased legal certainty and more harmonised implementation of the rules.

What is changing?

Under the revised directive, all EEE must be classified according to six new categories from 15 August, including two new open categories of large and small equipment.

The commission believes these new categories will increase the amount of WEEE recycled by more than 7% based on mass and help to more closely align collection and treatment operations, improve consistency in data reporting and limit administrative burdens on those facilities.

How is the UK implementing the amendment?

The UK government consulted on possible amendments to the WEEE Regulations 2013 in October 2017. The consultation considered a number of options for implementing the open scope system so “all items of EEE would in future fall within the product scope of the regulations unless subject to a specific exemption or exclusion” from 1 January 2019. This later date was proposed to align the new system with the UK’s WEEE compliance year.

In May 2018, DEFRA decided to retain the current system of 14 categories but proposed amending the 2013 regulations to provide flexibility to allow previously out-of-scope products to be allocated to one of those categories. The department says there was a high degree of support in the consultation responses for this approach.

DEFRA aims to lay the amending regulations by the end of 2018, and they will come into force with effect from 1 January 2019. The Environment Agency is also working on updating WEEE product scope guidance.

What do the changes mean?

Retaining the current 14 categories means there should be minimal changes to producer compliance schemes’ pricing structures, declaration categories and reporting systems.

It also means the costs of waste treatment and recycling for EEE producers are unlikely to be redistributed, especially for producers of household WEEE where the change in categories could have altered their market share by category.

Retaining the existing categories also means producers’ databases should not need updating to deal with new parameters, classifications and declarations.

Household luminaires are likely to be the most significant household product to enter scope from January 2019. However, DEFRA believes it is likely that these products are already being collected at local authority recycling centres as small mixed WEEE, hence producers are already covering the cost of treatment. This means producers should not face new recycling costs, simply fairer distribution.

Retaining the current category system does, however, mean a protocol may be needed to report data to the European Commission according to the new WEEE Directive’s six categories.

DEFRA says it will work with industry to develop robust protocols by the reporting deadline of July 2020, depending on Brexit.

This article was first published by TheENDSReport in their edition 522, September 2018.

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