Out with the old and in with the new
This year will undoubtedly bring a whole new raft of changes in legislation to look forward to but as Ernest Magog of Lumicom explains; you still need to keep your eye on the ball as far as the WEEE Directive is concerned.
The start of a new year is always something to look forward to because it is a time to clear out the old and make way for the new. But it is also a time to ensure that you are keeping on top of your commitments as far as legislation is concerned, and one which should be at the top of the agenda for 2012 is the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.
It may sometimes seem as though there is so much legislation to keep on top of that you don’t have time for your normal job but sadly that is something that we have to contend with and as a wholesaler you also have a duty to ensure that your customers are aware of the changes and their obligations.
The WEEE Directive is nothing new and in theory we should all be well and truly on top of it by now. But since its introduction it has seen some significant changes, many of which have been introduced to clarify areas of confusion, while others have brought additional products within the remit of the Directive.
The important thing is therefore to understand what your obligations are and what the obligations of your customers are, and specifically whether you are classified as a producer of the products that are being disposed of.
One of the major changes to the WEEE Directive has been in the products which are included in the Directive. For example, last year the Environment Agency introduced a number of additional items which included ballasts, photoelectric cells and igniters used in lighting products.
You may be forgiven for thinking that just as you get to grips with the regulations someone changes the goal posts, but in actual fact although these items have been added to the list of products which come under the remit of the WEEE Directive, they are still treated in the same way as other products which you are already familiar with. So it is still the manufacturer of the end product who is classified as the producer and therefore when these items are supplied for incorporation into a new product then it is the manufacturer of the end product who is responsible for them at the end of life. However if the items are sold as component parts then it is the component manufacturer who is classified as the producer.
As a result of this it is worth making your customers aware of the changes because if they are responsible for any refurbishment projects where old light fittings are being removed, they need to ensure that they are sorting their waste accordingly.
There have been a number of other changes to the WEEE Directive over the past few years, including the way in which LED light sources are dealt with. In fact dealing with luminaires in general tends to be more complex than other forms of WEEE because of the requirement to sort the various components so that they can be dealt with separately.
But one thing which remains clear is that it is crucial that everyone understands who is responsible for what as this will have an impact on the way in which waste is sorted on site before collection.
The general rule is that if you are in any doubt then you should seek advice from an expert who will be able to help you to understand what you are responsible for and how it should be dealt with. It is always better to double check than to find yourself in a position where you have not met your obligations and as far as your customers are concerned this is a good piece of advice to give them.
But the question which remains is what it actually means for you and how have wholesalers been affected by the changes?
Well this is one area where very few changes have taken place and providing that you do not import or place your own branded EEE goods onto the market then you remain largely unscathed by the regulations.
However that does not mean that you can completely forget about it because we still recommend that as a wholesaler you should alert your suppliers of the need to show their WEEE registration number on their invoice.
In addition you should regularly review your terms and conditions of purchase and the terms and conditions of your suppliers to ensure that you are not inadvertently undertaking WEEE obligations, of which you were not aware. The default in the WEEE Regulations is that the producer is responsible for any WEEE obligations, but it is possible for alternative arrangements to be made by agreement between a producer and an end user. Such agreements cannot be made where no direct contractual arrangements are possible for example where there is a multi link supply chain involved. So check very carefully that your luminaire supplier is a member of a producer compliance scheme that actually recycles rather than relies on ‘Alternative Arrangements’.
I emphasis that you should review your list of luminaire suppliers to ensure that they are fully WEEE compliant in their own right and are not seeking to pass their producer responsibility down the supply chain, because this is no longer permitted by the Environment Agency.
Keep it simple
Meeting your obligations under the WEEE Directive needn’t be difficult, and although it may look a bit daunting it is actually very easy to ensure that you are compliant by reviewing the terms and conditions which you have with your suppliers on a regular basis.
But if you or your customers do have an obligation under the WEEE Directive, for example if you are putting your own branded EEE goods onto the market, it can also be very easy because a number of compliance schemes exist to meet the responsibilities of the producers.
A compliance scheme is basically an organisation which has been set up to ensure that WEEE is dealt with in an environmentally sound and cost effective manner and there are a number of Schemes which all meet different needs.
The key is to do your homework and find the right compliance scheme which works for you and don’t be afraid to ask questions because any reputable compliance scheme will be more than happy to work with you and your customers to ensure that you achieve the best results.
So as we enter into a new year my advice is to start as you mean to go on. Check whether you have an obligation and whether you are compliant and if you are in any doubt then seek advice. A good compliance scheme can make it very easy to navigate your way through the Directive successfully and achieve cost effective compliance for lighting products without getting lost in legislation.