Government face legal challenge over waste rules

REPIC seeks Judicial Review of WEEE Regulations

REPIC, the UK's largest electronic waste recycling compliance scheme, has begun judicial review proceedings over what it says is the Government's failure to close loopholes in the system designed to ensure that TVs, washing machines, fridges and other household items are recycled.

REPIC, whose members represent around half of all UK sales of electrical and electronic goods, says the EU-inspired Waste Electronic Equipment (WEEE) rules are being exploited by some organisations seeking to extract excessive profit from the manufacturers' duty to prove they are recycling their share of waste equipment.

To comply with the WEEE rules, manufacturers must join a compliance scheme, which has to collect a proportion of all electronic waste determined by how much new product its members put on the market each year. Compliance schemes are required to collect an amount of WEEE which is equivalent to their members' obligations.

However, some compliance schemes have taken the opportunity to collect waste well in excess of their obligations with a view to selling it on at inflated prices to other schemes.

Not agreeing to pay such compliance schemes places manufacturers in the potential position of non compliance with associated legal consequences.

The industry group launching the challenge - the compliance scheme REPIC - says that the Government is fully aware of the situation and that, even after persistent attempts by REPIC to encourage action to remedy it, Ministers have not taken steps to bring this damaging opportunism to an end.

REPIC is committed to working with the Government to resolve these issues but says the latter's failure to take any meaningful action has pushed REPIC to try to find a solution through judicial review.

Commenting on the move, REPIC's Chief Executive, Dr Philip Morton said:

"The current WEEE scheme is being exploited in a way that needlessly increases manufacturers' costs, which are inevitably passed on to the consumer. As currently applied, the WEEE rules are a model of bad regulation; they encourage profiteering and undermine attempts to promote good environmental practices by industry.

"REPIC members are totally committed to meeting their WEEE obligations and managing the end of life process for their products, but cannot accept a position where their commitment to meet their obligations is used as an opportunity for others to extract excessive profits.

"We have been consistently advised for some time that over-collection by compliance schemes is unlawful. The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, as well as the environment agencies, are fully aware of the issues and we believe will, by our actions, be encouraged to address the issues and apply the law that limits over-collection."