Enforcement Is The Key For WEEE

Sean-Feeney-webEnforcement is the key to the future of the WEEE recycling industry, says Environcom’s chief executive, Sean Feeney, in the wake of the recent CRT glass export debate, in a CIWM Journal Online Exclusive

Pre-case concrete with some CRT glass embedded


Earlier this year, myself and other UK leaded glass recyclers, as well as a number of precast concrete manufacturers, formed a steering group to voice our concerns about a decision by the Environment Agency to allow the export of UK CRT glass to Holland, and then to permit the import of leaded-glass-filled concrete blocks from Holland back into the UK. Our view was, and still is, that this is potentially unlawful and threatens the future of UK industry and jobs.

As a steering group, we have raised our concerns with Defra, the Environment Agency itself and a number of other stakeholders with an interest in individual businesses affected by these practices, including our own Grantham MP, Nick Boles, who is also the Government’s minister for business and education.

I am delighted to say that our industry’s plea on the CRT glass issue was listened to and the Environment Agency has recently announced a change in practice, which will mean that it will now require evidence from future exporters of CRT glass to demonstrate clearly that theirs is a legitimate recovery activity. This should now lead to the export of UK CRT glass to unchallenged destinations stopping for good, which is great news for the environment as well as for UK leaded glass recyclers and precast concrete manufacturers, who have all suffered as a result of this practice being allowed to continue.

Ultimately, what we have spent the last nine months asking for is the creation of a level playing field across Europe through greater enforcement of existing UK and European waste regulations, which should ensure that as a nation we are doing the right thing with the waste materials we produce.

It is not necessarily about creating new regulations – although many of our waste and recycling regulations in the UK are indeed outdated – but ensuring that we better enforce the regulations we already have, including the Revised WEEE Framework Directive, which goes a long way to providing the framework for the future of our industry.

More Enforcement Needed

The upshot is, greater enforcement is absolutely essential and without it the WEEE recycling industry is doomed to the lowest common denominator. Companies like Environcom have invested millions of pounds into the infrastructure, skills and technology required to take our industry to the next stage of its development, where professional practices and responsible resource management are the norm.

But there continues to be a rogue element to the industry and without greater enforcement this will continue unchallenged. Take fridge recycling for example. There is strong evidence to suggest that approximately 40 percent of fridges are being recycled in scrap merchants’ shredders despite the introduction of guidance over a year ago banning this activity. Every year, of the circa 190 000 tonnes of fridges imported into this country for sale to UK consumers, 85 000 tonnes of them are not registered as being recycled at the end of life.

Everyone in the industry knows this practice is happening, but currently it is largely going unchecked. It is our intention to continue working closely with the Environment Agency and other relevant authorities to support them in their work, to ensure these illegal and unsafe practices ultimately cease.

If we as a nation can get to grips with supporting everything that is right about modern day WEEE recycling, and enforcing regulations designed to strip out the unscrupulous elements, which are not only bad for the environment but also for the UK’s wider green economy, then we will have a world-beating industry that we can all be proud of. Only by ensuring greater enforcement will Britain’s circular economy thrive, at the expense of illegal and outdated practices and operations.


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