The Future of the WEEE & Batteries Regulations

Following on from the release of the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy in December 2018, which you can read more about HERE, we are now in the year when we can expect to see consultations on amending the WEEE and Batteries producer responsibility regimes

As stated in the Resources and Waste Strategy document, the aim of these reviews is to “incentivise more sustainable product design, increase recycling and ensure alignment with the wider Extended Producer Responsibility framework.” After these reviews, government will change the current regulations as required.

WEEE Regulatory Review

To provide some background, the current Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations (2013) became law in the UK on 1 January 2014 and replaced the WEEE Regulations 2006. The purpose was to set targets for the collection, recovery and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment across Europe and divert volumes of waste electrical equipment from landfill. The legislation places the onus on producers to be responsible for their items when they become waste. However, producers are not obligated to actually reprocess their own products at end of life, they are only obligated to fund separate collections of WEEE on an ad-hoc basis, as well as paying fees based on their market share in specified WEEE categories, and despite retailers having obligations to take back WEEE from consumers, collections of WEEE needs to increase. This is especially key for small pieces of WEEE which are often disposed of in black bin bag waste, however, the current legislation does not provide an incentive for WEEE producers to create and sell more sustainable products.

In February 2020, government published the Post Implementation Review of the 2013 WEEE Regulations which you can read more about HERE. This review was expected in 2019 so has been delayed and long-awaited. A review of the effectiveness of the current Regulations assisted in highlighting areas for improvement to incorporate within the upcoming consultation. In addition, environmental consultancy Eunomia have published a report covering the ingredients for a successful WEEE EPR system which is available on the following link and will feed greatly into the consultation content. View the Eunomia study HERE

The consultation on improving and amending the current WEEE Regulations is expected by the end of 2020 with changes likely to be implemented from January 2023, (possibility that some changes could be pushed through January 2022).

Waste Batteries Regulatory Review

Furthermore, government will also consult on amendments to the current waste batteries regulations by the end of 2020. The Waste Battery and Accumulator Regulations 2009 came into force in May 2009 and implemented the provisions made for waste batteries in the EU Directive 2006/66/EC. These Regulations set out requirements for waste battery collection, treatment, recycling and disposal for all battery types and affect producers, battery distributors (retailers), waste battery collectors, recyclers and exporters. This legislation aims to improve the environmental performance of batteries and accumulators and all those involved in their life cycle.

The current regulations have achieved their aim of increasing collection and recycling of portable batteries, alongside a ban on the disposal of industrial and automotive batteries to landfill, however, as with WEEE, the current system is not effective in preventing portable batteries ending-up in black bin bag waste.

As stated in the Resources and Waste Strategy, through the upcoming consultation government will aim to “resolve the imbalance in the recycling of portable batteries between chemistry types as well as other emerging issues, such as non-complying internet sellers.”

In terms of both reviews, they will be considered together to establish if closer alignment is required between the WEEE and waste batteries regimes or if a singular approach for both areas is achievable.

We will continue to communicate further information regarding the upcoming EPR reforms as and when information is made available, so please keep an eye on our website news stories to keep up to date.

Additionally, if you have any queries regarding these upcoming consultations, please don’t hesitate to contact our policy team on who will be more than happy to support and advise.