THREE LEADING European trade associations have written an open letter to the European Commission, calling for action to tackle non-compliance with waste legislation, of sales through online retailers such as Amazon. The letter is co-signed by EucoLight, the WEEE Forum, and EXPRA.
The letter draws attention to high levels of non-compliance through online retailers and fulfilment houses with Extended Producer Responsibility legislation, particularly WEEE.
Welcoming the joint letter, Nigel Harvey, a director of EucoLight and also CEO of lighting WEEE scheme Recolight said ‘Non-compliance damages legitimate companies by putting them at a competitive disadvantage. It also undermines the sustainable financing of waste collection and recycling.’
He added ‘The best way to tackle this problem is to make online sellers and fulfilment houses legally required to take on the duties of producer under EPR legislation for the product they sell or stock on behalf of non-compliant companies.’
The letter states: ‘The Extended Producer Responsibility Alliance (EXPRA), the WEEE Forum and the EucoLight call on policymakers to introduce explicit obligations for online sellers under the new waste legislation.
'The draft waste proposals attempt to reinforce the transparency in European waste management operations. Within these, free-riding is a central topic. Free-riding describes the process whereby companies placing products on the market circumvent Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) obligations, including registering with EPR schemes and financing their products’ end-of-life management.
‘This is an issue of growing concern in light of distance sales already representing up to 20 and 30 per cent of the market across various waste streams in certain Member States. By avoiding to pay for their collection and reprocessing costs, these sales distort the market: they impose an unfair cost on compliant producers, thus rendering these - mostly local companies - less competitive. In addition, they alter the collection rates: unregistered distance sales artificially lower the product-placed-on-the- market figures, thereby making the legal targets easier to reach.
‘In a bid to face this challenge, online sellers and fulfilment houses should be required to take on the duties of a ‘producer’ under the Directive dealing with the product they sell or stock. In turn, they should meet the full array of Extended Producer Responsibility obligations under both EU and national laws, from registration to cost-coverage and reporting.
‘For the purposes of monitoring and verifying compliance, Member States should moreover be allowed to lay down additional provisions for online sellers that tackle the specificities of their operations.
‘Dedicated enforcement mechanisms should also be contemplated, including improved coordination between customs, tax, trading standards officials and environmental authorities responsible for product law.
‘We strongly believe that the EU waste proposals represent a unique opportunity to enhance the transparency and data accuracy in waste management practice across the EU. This is why online sales should be explicitly covered under the new EU waste legislation.’