The Future of Producer Responsibility Legislation

Scott-Butler-ERPERP’s managing director, Scott Butler, tackled the subject of producer responsibility legislation at the recent CIWM Conference 2013. Here he summarises his thoughts in an online exclusive
CIWM Journal Online Exclusive



I am looking forward to this year’s CIWM conference. These are particularly interesting times for the waste and resource management industry and, once a year, the CIWM Conference offers key stakeholders the chance to discuss and consider the ever-changing environment in which we work. The timing of this year’s conference is particularly prescient given the many changes that are taking place at a national and EU level, especially with regards to producer responsibility legislation.

The Recast WEEE Directive has given the Government the opportunity to look again at the WEEE legislation in the UK; and the Government has taken this chance, through the Red Tape Challenge and the review of producer responsibility regimes, to examine further ways that the systems can be improved.

WEEE is therefore at the forefront. And, given that so much is going on at both the European and national levels, I think we need to look further afield than the UK to learn from different approaches and it is important to analyse WEEE systems across Europe. We also need to examine WEEE flows outside of the formal WEEE systems to gain a fuller picture of what is happening to electronic waste across the continent.

In terms of producer responsibility as a whole, I think one of the most important issues is to establish a clearer definition of responsibilities between stakeholders: producers, compliance schemes, local authorities, retailers, treatment companies, waste management companies and enforcement authorities.

Local Authority Voices

Local authorities are so clearly impacted by producer responsibility legislation that any discussion on this topic would be incomplete without their viewpoint. For a long time I have been saying that many of this industry’s forums lack a clear voice from local authorities, and I look forward to hearing that voice.

Another critical issue is commitment to standards. High quality treatment is critical. We must also create systems that discourage brokerage where no value is being added, and incentivise innovation. Finally, I think we need to look at things from a different perspective and examine how producer legislation feeds back up the pipe and influences product design. Such an approach should throw up many interesting points which perhaps we haven’t considered before.

What I am most looking forward to over the next few months is having a meaningful debate. We now have many years’ experience of the various producer responsibility regimes (packaging, WEEE, waste batteries and end-of-life vehicles) under our belts; and we need to carefully analyse what works and what doesn’t. What Defra is currently doing to introduce coherence across the regimes is extremely positive. None of the producer responsibility regimes were future-proof and we now have a unique opportunity to look at them again, to seize the opportunities and rectify any mistakes.

To do this, and deliver cost and environmentally effective systems, we must bring an honest and critical approach to the debate.

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