‘Fresh thinking needed’ to reverse falling recycling rates

FRESH THINKING is needed if the lighting industry is to reverse falling levels of lamp and luminaire recycling, a leading figure in the sector declared this week.

An investigation by Recolight found that 76 per cent of LED light bulbs offered for sale on one online marketplace were not WEEE compliant.

At an event to mark the twelfth anniversary of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations in the UK, Nigel Harvey, CEO of lighting specialist WEEE compliance body Recolight,  said that, over the last three years, there has been a material decline in the tonnage of waste lamps collected in the UK, along with other WEEE.

‘Fresh thinking is needed reverse this decline,’  said Harvey

He proposed three areas in which change is needed: More ways for consumers to return their waste, a commitment to what are termed ‘freeriders’ and more enforcement powers for agencies.

Consumers currently have limited options for correct disposal of WEEE – largely limited to their local household waste recycling centres.

‘That is clearly no longer sufficient.  We need to give consumers more options.  Those options should include providing kerbside collections of WEEE and requiring high street retailers to takeback WEEE in stores.’

Many of these changes, Harvey suggests, can be achieved by a review of the distributor takeback scheme, which currently allows retailers to opt out of providing a WEEE take-back service.

However, implementing these changes could increase costs for some producers, and retailers.  As a result, Harvey recommends tackling non-compliant producers selling through online marketplaces:  ‘The level of non-compliant product sold through online marketplaces and fulfilment houses is truly shocking.

‘We found that 76 per cent of LED light bulbs offered for sale on one marketplace were not WEEE compliant.  Those producers avoid the costs incurred by companies that follow the law. So we are delighted that the Government has now consulted on making online marketplaces responsible for the packaging compliance of product for which they facilitate the import into the UK.  What is now needed for government to adopt that same approach for WEEE.

‘Ensuring that online retailers, and all producers bear their fair share of WEEE costs should minimise or even eliminate any additional burden on compliant producers and high street retailers.’

Harvey recommend that the UK’s four environment agencies need more enforcement powers to drive compliance.  ‘If we change the law to tackle freeriders, it is also vital that the agencies have better enforcement powers.

‘That should include statutory fines for free-riding producers.  The existence of an annual compliance fee every year since 2013 means it is possible to calculate, to the nearest penny, the costs avoided when producers do not comply.

‘That creates the ideal base cost for a statutory fine.  Implementing this mechanism would, at last, create the fair system that compliant companies crave.’


  • Learn more about the handling of waste lamps and luminaires at the LuxLive 2019 exhibition.  The show takes place on Wednesday 13 November and Thursday 14 November 2018 at ExCeL London. Entry is free if you pre-register HERE.