WEEE scheme Recolight has warmly welcomed new proposals from Defra to make online marketplaces responsible for compliance with producer responsibility legislation.
Defra’s consultation to reform the system for waste packaging identifies the “growing problem of non-compliance through online marketplaces”. Research undertaken by Recolight, and others, undoubtedly supports this position: A review of listings on one online marketplace suggested that 76% of LED lightbulbs, 54% of power tools, and 50% of electric haircare products did not comply with WEEE legislation.
Creating a new class of Producer
The solution proposed by Defra is to create a new class of Producer. This would make online marketplaces responsible for the compliance of all products sold through their websites, that are imported into the UK.
A fair and elegant solution from Defra
Commenting on the proposal, Recolight CEO Nigel Harvey said: “The Defra proposal will at last, tackle this major problem. The solution they have come up with is particularly elegant. Producers based inside the UK who sell through online marketplaces continue to take direct responsibility for their products. But where the producer is based outside the UK, that responsibility would fall upon the online marketplace.”
“At a stroke, this would bring product from thousands, or even tens of thousands of producers, predominantly based in China, into compliance. Those producers would not need to individually register with compliance schemes. Instead, product data, already captured by online marketplaces through sales transactions, would be aggregated and submitted as a part of their own compliance process.”
Providing straightforward enforcement
“The process would be simple to audit, simple to administer, and effective at capturing a high proportion of non-compliant product. Enforcing UK legislation on a large number of companies based on the other side of the globe is nigh on impossible. Focusing instead on a few online marketplaces could really drive compliance.”
The current proposal only relates to the waste packaging legislation but seems likely to be incorporated within other producer responsibility legislation, including WEEE and batteries.
Timescale concerns for the changes
Nigel Harvey added “Our only concern is with timescales. The new waste packaging legislation is likely to come into force in 2023. The Government will consult on amending the WEEE regulations in 2020. That probably also means WEEE changes in 2022-23. But the unfair competition of non-compliant product sold through online marketplaces is causing real commercial damage now. Earlier implementation of the proposed change is therefore essential.”
The Defra consultation closes on 13 May 2019.