Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Correspondence from Dixons Group plc to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 19 October 2001


  I am responding on behalf of the Dixons Group plc to the draft Statutory Instrument (SI) published by your Department on 5 October. Our particular concern is the affect these new controls may have on the take-back service that we currently offer to our customers for large and of life domestic appliances.

  As you know the Dixons Group is Europe's largest specialist retailer of consumer electronic and electrical products. The Group has more than 1,250 stores across the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Nordic region and Spain and trades in the UK and Ireland as Dixons, Currys, PC World and The Link.

  Over the last financial year the Dixons Group recovered 750,000 redundant white goods when delivering new products to our customer's homes. More than 300,000 were fridges. At present, these redundant appliances are returned to one of our 18 local distribution centres, from which point we sub-contract their disposal, mainly through relatively small subcontractors whose core activity revolves around either 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 and relieves local authorities of a considerable burden.

  The first stage of implementation of Regulation 2037/2000 has already had an impact on those sub-contractors who exported 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.

  The second stage, which requires the extradition and treatment of CFCs in foam, is likely to have a greater impact as it effectively prevents export for re-use. Again there has been little guidance on this issue despite the looming implementation date.

  As you will be aware, currently there are no extraction facilities to remove CFCs from foam in the UK, nor is it likely that such facilities could be built in the UK in under a year. Even if such facilities were in place, a cost-free waste collection and management system (as is the case now) would need to be put into place before the second stage of the regulations are implemented.

  Our fear is that the impact of the regulation could undermine the viability of recovering and recycling of white goods. If electrical retailers were forced to withdraw this service, local authorities would inherit the responsibility for which they have little or no provision.

  It is therefore the view of the Dixons Group that the regulations on Ozone-Depleting substances should not be implemented on 1 January 2002 and should be postponed until extraction facilities and a cost free waste collection and management system are in place in the UK.

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