It has been anticipated that in the new year WEEE schemes will be required to join the Producer Compliance Scheme Balancing System (PBS).
The PBS is a system set up by compliance schemes to deal collaboratively with requests from councils for collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). It is used in the event that councils have been unable to agree with a compliance scheme to collect the material.
Councils are entitled to the free offtake of WEEE deposited by householders, funded by producers of electronic goods through the producer compliance system, under the WEEE Regulations.
In recent years, some councils have reported that demand for WEEE by compliance schemes has dropped, particularly where CA sites are located in remote locations or where logistics costs are high.
If a council has been unable to reach agreement with a scheme on the collection of WEEE, they are able to use ‘Regulation 34’, a backstop which exists under the WEEE regulations to guarantee collection of WEEE.
How does Regulation 34 work?
Regulation 34 provides a mechanism to ensure that local authority designated collection facilities (DCFs) will always be cleared of WEEE free of charge by giving DCF operators the power to request a producer compliance scheme to clear WEEE from their site where their contract with a PCS has expired or been terminated. A PCS receiving a valid Regulation 34 request must arrange collection or it will be in breach of its conditions of approval.
Following an announcement in May, it had been expected that mandatory membership of the PBS would be brought in from January 1 2019 alongside other changes to the WEEE regulations – which were laid in Parliament last month.
It has now emerged that the PBS will remain a voluntary initiative until at least Spring 2019 when Defra is expected to consult on the new PBS format – with a likely June start date for the compulsory system.
Commenting on the development, Nigel Harvey chief executive of the compliance scheme Recolight, and chair of the WEEE Schemes Forum which led the development of the PBS, said it is ‘reassuring’ that Defra is pursuing a mandatory system.
He said: “It is pleasing that the government has made good on its promise to make the PBS mandatory in 2019. The dates in the new legislation mean that the voluntary system will only be needed for a few months in 2019, which is reassuring.
“That said, the transition from a voluntary system to a mandatory system in year will create some complexity, but it will be worth it in the long run. It makes the system fairer by ensuring that all PCSs contribute towards the cost of WEEE that arises through
regulation 34. Currently, some PCSs avoid this cost – inevitably the highest cost WEEE – by staying outside the voluntary system.”
Despite support from what is thought to be a majority of schemes for the mandatory PBS– some opposition does exist.
A perceived lack of transparency has led to schemes paying more for the collection of WEEE through the PBS, critics have claimed.
Martin Fortune, director of Key Waste Solutions is among those to oppose making the PBS mandatory in its current format.
He has founded the WEEE Allocation Scheme (WAS) as a potential alternative to the PBS. Under the WAS bids from schemes would be displayed publicly, and the full cost of the system would be made clearer to users, Mr Fortune has said, in an interview with letsrecycle.com, that he welcomed the opportunity to present an alternative proposal to the PBS through the consultation process.
“We are pleased that Defra has listened to us and acknowledged that there is [potential for] more than £5 million in cost to industry and that there will be a more open and transparent process. “We will now have a chance to present and for people to look at the alternatives.”