A mandatory legal requirement to meet the EN 50625 series of standards on WEEE (e-waste) or at least a national agreement among compliance schemes to implement the WEEELABEX programme are the most effective strategies to improve the WEEE treatment quality in Europe and level the playing field. A new report commissioned by the WEEE Forum and the WEEELABEX Organisation seeks to evaluate the impact of the standards on the WEEE sector.
In 2008, the European Union approved the WEEE Forum's "WEEELABEX" project proposal. WEEELABEX was a multi-stakeholder project that, on the one hand, laid down a set of European normative requirements with respect to collection, logistics and treatment of WEEE (e-waste) and, on the other hand, sought to set up an organisation that would train auditors and manage the Conformity Verification process, allowing recyclers to be audited by experienced, trained professionals in accordance with the WEEELABEX requirements. On 17 April 2013 in Prague, twenty-five WEEE producer compliance schemes set up the WEEELABEX Organisation. By late 2016, more than 70 auditors had been trained to conduct WEEELABEX audits and more than 150 facilities were recognised, publicly listed WEEELABEX facilities.
Encouragingly, early 2016, the Prague-based organisation reached a very important milestone by obtaining a “certificate of accreditation”, issued by the Czech Accreditation Institute, a member of the International Accreditation Forum.
Furthermore, CENELEC, the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization, is developing formal EN standards on WEEE collection, logistics and treatment, and most of them are based on the WEEELABEX requirements. Interestingly, transposing Directive 2012/19/EU on WEEE into national law, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Luxembourg and Belgium chose to make compliance with the WEEELABEX (or EN 50625) requirements mandatory. In order to further level the WEEE playing field, CECED, DIGITALEUROPE, EERA and the WEEE Forum called on the European Commission to prepare an Implementing Regulation in accordance with the provisions laid down in Article 8 of the Directive, that would oblige Member States to adopt a fair and consistent requirement of mandatory compliance to the EN 50625 series for all WEEE treatment facilities in the EU.
It is important that the consequences of an EU regulation setting mandatory CENELEC standards are well understood.
The work performed by the WEEELABEX Organisation during the last three years allows for an evaluation of the impact of mandatory standards, which this report, mandated by the General Assembly of the WEEE Forum at its session on 21 May 2015, and based on surveys to which both producer compliance schemes and operators had responded, seeks to do.
Conclusions of the WEEELABEX Impact Assessment:
- In those Member States in which the adherence to the WEEELABEX (or EN 50625) standards is mandatory, the WEEELABEX quality approach towards treatment, logistics and collection of WEEE is most pervasive. Making EN 50625 mandatory across Europe, either through an EU Implementing Act or Member States choosing to make compliance with the standard mandatory, should therefore remain the goal of all actors on the market.
- Costs associated with becoming WEEELABEX certified clearly depend on the original situation of the operator. The higher the original quality of its operations and processes, the lower are the costs of implementation of WEEELABEX.
- Audit costs associated with the first audit are below €10,000 for half of the respondents. The average total cost is below €13,500. The cost of the surveillance audit, which is compared to the first audit a relatively simple and straightforward exercise, does not exceed €8,500.
The main advantages of the overall WEEELABEX programme are associated with better depollution results due to high, detailed levels set by the WEEELABEX (or EN) standard, better traceability of waste, a uniform set of standards for all WEEE treatment plants, better compliance of regulations by operators and corporate social responsibility.
The top obstacles to implement and verify WEEELABEX and disadvantages are mostly costs and lack of support from authorities, too much time required to meet administrative requirements and to prepare audits, long overall process and high costs to adapt treatment process and facilities.
Interestingly, audit costs appear in third place together with lack of documents available in local language.
A mandatory legal requirement or at least a national agreement among WEEE systems are the most effective strategies to improve the implementation of WEEELABEX in Europe. In countries in which WEEELABEX is mandatory, more support from the authorities and pressure on non-compliant operators would be the right policies. The sharing of costs of the audits, lowering at the same time the burden on operators, remain the most sensible argument to implement WEEELABEX. Actors on the market can take different types of concerted actions to promote the implementation of WEEELABEX, and even individually WEEE systems can promote WEEELABEX.
You can download a copy of the WEEELABEX Impact Assessment here.