Environmental Audit Committee
Enquiry into e-waste and the circular economy
Written evidence submitted by Recolight Ltd
This submission draws attention to the scale of WEEE non-compliance through online marketplaces. It also asks that amendments to the WEEE legislation tackle this in a way that does not discriminate against producers that do not sell through online marketplaces. It points out that the Simplified Compliance Model, proposed by Amazon, could result in the transfer of still more market power and control to online marketplaces, and recommends ways in which this could be avoided.
Recolight is a producer-owned, not-for-profit WEEE Producer Compliance scheme. It has over 190 producer members, mainly drawn from the lighting industry. Recolight has been instrumental in drawing attention to the scale of WEEE non-compliance through online marketplaces in the UK.
Recolight first investigated and published the scale of WEEE non-compliance in 2017. This survey of a leading online marketplace showed:
A subsequent survey in 2019 covered the UK and nine EU member states. This showed that, rather than improving, the UK non-compliance rate had increased to 78%, and that similar, or higher levels of non-compliance were prevalent in all other countries investigated.
For many producers, WEEE charges have increased significantly during 2020, as a result of the costs of treatment of plastics containing WEEE. At the same time, the Covid-19 crisis has significantly accelerated the shift towards online purchases.
These two factors give producers that evade WEEE compliance, and online marketplaces which facilitate that evasion, further significant competitive advantage. That is adding further pressure on legitimate operators, risking business failures and job losses.
If the current timetable for the WEEE regulations to be updated is maintained, the situation will not improve until 2024. That may be too late for many producers.
Amazon have made proposals for what they call a “Simplified Compliance Model”. In essence, the proposal is that online marketplaces are required to report all the EEE sold through their site, to the Producer Compliance Scheme of which they are a member. It is pleasing that Amazon have taken the initiative, and superficially, their proposal looks good.
However, if implemented unamended, the proposal would give online marketplaces still more market power. That is because it would reduce both WEEE costs and WEEE administration for those producers selling exclusively through Amazon. In short, producers would be commercially incentivised to move all their sales to online marketplaces.
To prevent this risk and to make the proposed system fairer, there are several essential changes that are necessary:
 Assumes new regulations come into force in 2023, and impose a WEEE collection target on online marketplaces in 2024.
 It could be argued, with some justification, that agency charges per producer are generally too high, and that agencies should instead recover their charges via a higher annual Producer Compliance Scheme fee. We would support that approach, but it should not distract from the clear position that