The WEEE Directive and transposing UK Regulations are all about ‘extended producer responsibility’ (‘EPR’), which the OECD defines as a policy approach in which a producer’s responsibilities for a product extend to the post-consumer stage of that product’s life cycle – in other words, the producer is responsible for the product when it becomes waste.
There are two related features of EPR: (a) the shifting of responsibility (physically and/or economically, partially or fully) away from the consumer or end-user upstream towards the producer; and (b) providing incentives to producers to incorporate environmental considerations at the design stage of a product’s development. For the definition of ‘producer’ under the WEEE Regulations, click here.
Both of these features are incorporated into the WEEE legislation: producers are financially responsible, generally through their compliance scheme, for meeting the cost of collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of the products they put on the UK market when they become waste. The Regulations place a duty on the Secretary of State to encourage the design and production of EEE which takes into account and facilitates dismantling and recovery, in particular the re-use and recycling of WEEE, its components and materials.
The whole point of EPR is to encourage the reduction of waste, to promote the re-use of products and materials, and to increase the amount of recovery and recycling of waste, all of which serve to divert waste away from landfill.
WEEE is the third producer responsibility regime introduced. The first two are for packaging and end-of-life vehicles whilst legislation governing the collection and recycling of batteries was introduced in 2010.