Correspondence from Dixons Group plc to
the Minister of State (Environment), 10 August 2001
I am writing to seek guidance from your Department
on what measures the government intends to take following the
review of the Special Waste Regulations and the changes to the
Montreal Protocol giving rise to the new EC Regulation on Substances
that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Our particular concern is the effect that these
new controls may have on the take back service that we currently
offer to our customers for large domestic appliances.
Over the last financial year the Dixons Group,
(the parent company of Currys) recovered 730,000 redundant white
goods when delivering new products to our customers' homes. More
than 300,000 of these were refrigerated. At present, these redundant
appliances are returned to one of our 18 local distribution centres,
from which point we subcontract their disposal, mainly through
relatively small sub-contractors whose core activity revolves
around the reconditioning and sale of appliances or recycling
for material recovery.
Although retailers have no obligation to take-back
redundant products from customers we feel that this is a valuable
service. We are worried about any threat to this service that
could be a consequence of the new regulations.
As a result of the review, we understand that
waste electrical appliances containing CRTs, lead, mercury, CFCs,
HCFCs, batteries etc, will be classed as hazardous waste from
January 2002. While we accept the need to control materials and
substances that are hazardous to human health and the environment,
we are concerned at the possible implications of increased licensing
requirements both for our facilities and stores and those of our
At present, retailers which recover redundant
end of life electrical products for recycling are exempt from
requiring a waste management licence provided the waste products
are removed from our premises within a set time-scale (Exemption
number 28). We have found it difficult to obtain clear guidance
on whether this exemption will remain appropriate for our operation
once the definition of special/hazardous waste is expanded. Indeed
the advice given by DEFRA and the Environment Agency thus far
seems to contradict each other.
While DEFRA suggests that our current exemption
does not cover special waste, implying that we would need a special
waste licence, the Environment Agency (EA) advise that the current
exemption has been amended to cover ordinary and special waste.
The EA suggest that if that proviso remains in place the replacement
of the term "special" with "hazardous" would
not require a further licence. Clearly, if this change is to take
effect from January and licences are required, time will be needed
to apply for licences and for these applications to be processed.
It seems, at present, that those involved in managing this waste
stream will have to wait until late in the year before DEFRA and
the Environment Agency make clear their expectations.
Clearly the discovery, late in 2001, that a
licence is required from January could seriously disrupt the service
that we provide our customers. This would be particularly disruptive
given that the January sale period is among the busiest times
of the year for the sale, delivery and recovery of this type of
EC REGULATION 2037/2000
The first stage of implementation of Regulation
2037/2000 has already had an impact on those sub-contractors who
export refrigerated white goods for re-use. The UK's requirement
to remove the CFCs from the compressors prior to export means
that a number of countries which previously imported such fridges
for refurbishment and re-use no longer find it economic to do
so as they would have to be "re-gassed" in the importing
country to make them useable. As second-hand fridges can still
be obtained from other countries with the compressor CFCs intact
these sources are now being used in place of the UK.
The second stage, which requires the extraction
and treatment of CFCs in foam, is likely to have a greater impact.
Again, there has been little guidance on this issue despite the
looming implementation date.
At present there is no facility in the UK to
recover and treat foam containing CFCs. It is now unlikely that
such a facility could be created before the implementation date
for the regulation in January 2002.
Our fear is that the combined impact of these
two regulations could undermine the viability of recovering and
recycling white goods. If electrical retailers were forced to
withdraw this service local authorities would inherit a responsibility
for which they presently have little or no provision.
Looking ahead, it is hard to foresee how these
controls would facilitate the implementation of legislation on
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment.
Finally, we would urge a cross agency and department
approach to these issues. At present it appears that the impact
of legislation affecting this waste stream is not being examined
as a whole but rather by a series of different directorates within
DEFRA and other departments in isolation.
We would, therefore, welcome an early dialogue
between those currently involved in managing this waste stream
and Government and subsequent guidance from your Department on
implementation of these regulations.