A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has stated that online WEEE non-compliance is hindering the efficiency of WEEE systems, and id therefore affecting around 5 to 10% of the total OECD Electric and Electronic Equipment (EEE) market – up to 920,000 tonnes.
The issue affects especially small devices, such as LED lamps, and Eucolight – the voice of European WEEE compliance schemes specialised in managing the collection and recycling of WEEE lighting – has welcomed the report on “Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and the impact of online sales“, to which its members contributed.
The report focuses on the challenge that increasing online sales represent for environmental policies, adding that there are about 400 extended producer responsibility systems currently in operation across the globe, which have become one of the key approaches for making producers responsible for the environmental impacts of their products throughout the product chain.
“While these systems have helped to increase recycling and collection rates, as well as generating financial resources to pay for these activities, governments are grappling with a number of issues that hinder their effectiveness and efficiency,” the report explains.
“One of these issues is free-riding of producers or retailers, which the fast expansion of online sales in recent years has been exacerbating. Online sales are creating new free- riding opportunities as consumers are able to buy more easily from sellers in other countries. These sellers often have no physical, legal entity in the country where the consumer resides, and are not registered with national or local EPR schemes. The consequence is that they avoid producer and retailer/distributor obligations and costs.”
Its sets out measures to raise awareness and strengthen enforcement, such as requiring a single electronic register of producers for each jurisdiction and publish it on the competent authority’s website along with a form to report unregistered producers. Regulatory proposals include explicitly building the ability to prosecute a company for illegal action in another country/territory into WEEE legislation; and to consider introducing additional enforcement powers, and enabling private actions, to prevent illegal online selling, for example through obtaining a court ruling to close down websites quickly and cheaply.
Promoting Policy Measures
EucoLight has been promoting policy responses to tackle WEEE non-compliance and is actively facilitating the debate among stakeholders and institutions, and to identify possible solutions. Recognition of the online WEEE non-compliance challenge, (free-riding), faced by Producer Compliance Schemes is a vital first step to addressing the problem. EucoLight therefore endorses the recommendation to define multi-seller online platforms as “producers” of the products that they list from non-registered companies, and that transit through their fulfilment houses.
EucoLight Secretary General, Marc Guiraud explains: “WEEE schemes, which aim to make producers responsible for the environmental impact of the products they sell, have been key in increasing recycling and collection rates. When producers selling online avoid their obligations, they impose an unfair burden in the rest of the system and on compliant producers. Non-declared products prevent correct calculation of collection rates, and therefore achievement of the collection targets.”
Nigel Harvey, EucoLight Vice President and Recolight CEO said: “The OECD report confirms the large scale of WEEE non-compliance through online marketplaces and fulfilment houses. There is an urgent need for regulatory change. The VAT system has been amended to make online fulfilment houses jointly liable for VAT payments for any product they hold in stock in the UK. A similar approach is now needed for WEEE.”