Memorandum submitted by the British Retail
1. The British Retail Consortium [BRC] represents
the whole range of retailers including the large multiples, department
stores and independent shops, selling a wide selection of products
through centre of town, out of town, rural and virtual stores:
The retail sector is 7 per cent of
The retail industry employs 2.8 million
people in the UK, as at December 2001. This accounts for 11 per
cent of the UK workforce, equating to one in nine jobs.
In the 12 months to December 2001
the retail industry created 91,500 net new jobs.
2. The European Commission published a revised
European Waste Catalogue and hazardous waste list in February
2001. This added around 250 waste types to the hazardous waste
list, including waste electrical appliances that contain CRT's,
lead, mercury, CFCs, HCFCs, batteries. This means that a whole
range of end-of-life products will now be classified as hazardous
waste are items of equipment including-fluorescent tubes, computers,
toasters and fridges-and will have therefore have to be treated
as hazardous waste following the stringent regulatory requirements
of the Special Waste Regulations 1996. Many of these products
are used by a wide range of business sectors traditionally not
regarded as producers of hazardous waste.
3. The BRC fully supports the need for these
end-of-life products to be safely disposed of so as to avoid environmental
harm but is concerned about the serious implications of their
reclassification as hazardous waste.
4. A large proportion of Waste Electrical
Equipment (predominantly large white goods) is currently collected
by retailers when delivering new products. Many retailers, both
large and small, provide this service free-of-charge to customers.
5. Currently, Exemption 28 of the Waste
Management Licensing Regulations allows retailers to take back
electrical goods and store them on site for up to 28 days before
sending them for recovery/recycling without the need for a waste
management licence. However, once categorised as hazardous Waste,
exemptions of this kind will not be valid as it is illegal in
Europe to hold or treat hazardous waste under an exemption. This
will mean that any retailer taking back end-of-life electrical
products will require a hazardous waste licence. If this approach
is taken it could extend to retail distribution centres, warehouses,
yards and possibly even the stores themselves. This will be extremely
costly and burdensome from an administrative point of view especially
for small independent retailers who only take back a small number
6. The BRC finds it hard to reconcile the
likely outcomes of these changes with the development of the EU
Directive on Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment which
will require the take-back, handling and storage of electrical
products via "a yet to be devised" system.
HEALTH & SAFETY
7. End-of-life products that are currently
handled as controlled waste will soon have to be treated as hazardous
waste. Thus environmental, health and safety legislation that
applies to hazardous waste management sites is complex and detailed.
In handling hazardous waste, retailers will be required to ensure
that all health and safety legislation is met. This will require
the training of large numbers of staff to a high level in order
to safely allow them to handle hazardous materials.
8. From reading the text of the EU Landfill
Directive it appears that for the purposes of disposal the new
definition of hazardous waste will apply from August 2002, almost
certainly before the changes to the special waste regulations
are amended and fully implemented into UK law. From this date,
landfill regulations will prohibit the landfill of hazardous waste
except at sites classified as 'hazardous landfill'.
9. The BRC is concerned that without any
clear guidance from the relevant authorities confusion will reign
as to which point in the waste generation and management chain
the new classifications should apply. Will a fluorescent tube
currently not classed hazardous in the UK be able to enter the
waste stream as normal or will the Landfill Directive changes
require it to be recognised as hazardous despite the UK not having
implemented the full changes? This is extremely important for
both the waste management industry and waste producers as guidance
may result in the need to change systems, procedures, paper-work
and introduce additional employee training.
10. The lack of consideration for all forthcoming
regulations affecting waste electrical and electronic equipment
as a whole will once again lead the United Kingdom towards adopting
over complicated, expensive and fragmented policies that each
target only one aspect of the waste stream concerned. This approach
will fail to deliver the best environmental solution.
British Retail Consortium