WEEE and Batteries - Enhanced EPA powers to tackle non-compliance

Date released: Oct 09 2018



WEEE and Batteries - Enhanced EPA powers to tackle non-compliance

09/10/18: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced today that it is ready to start issuing Fixed Payment Notices in the coming weeks to persons and businesses not complying with their obligations under the Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations and the Batteries Regulations.

Correct management of waste electrical and electronic equipment and batteries means that hazardous substances found inside can be safely disposed of and that some materials can be reused - saving both resources and energy. 
Dr Eimear Cotter, EPA Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability said,

“Electronics and batteries are everywhere these days. When they reach the end of their useful life, the waste coming from these products needs to be managed properly. Fixed Payment Notices provide an alternative and efficient enforcement option to the EPA to help enforce the relevant regulations. While we may of course still need to take prosecutions, the use of Fixed Payment Notices will allow us to pursue non-compliant companies without having to access the courts. Ultimately, full compliance across the sector is what we want to achieve. This would support the delivery of a circular economy in Ireland where recycling and reuse is maximised.”

This enforcement action will target those who are importing, distributing and selling electrical and electronic equipment and batteries in Ireland, including those who sell online or through catalogues. The amounts associated with Fixed Payment Notices will be vary from €500 to €2,000 for each offence.

 Dr Shane Colgan, EPA Senior Manager, said,

“To date, Ireland has been successful in dealing with these wastes, using an effective set of supports and regulations to achieve collection levels in line with EU targets. As the system matures and the collection targets rise, it is important that all importers, distributors and sellers are evenly regulated. The introduction of Fixed Payment Notices provides the EPA with an efficient means for enforcing legal obligations and will improve the targeting of non-compliant operators.”

Commenting on Ireland’s performance on recycling and reuse in the WEEE and batteries sector Shane Colgan concluded,

“Batteries and electrical & electronic equipment contain valuable metals.  If we collect and recycle them after use, we are keeping these important resources in circulation and can use them for future products. The other side of it is that these metals can be toxic in the environment and can cause serious pollution and damage wildlife if carelessly discarded - as well as being an eyesore. Achieving high rates of recycling can be challenging, and while at present we are achieving current targets, these will increase significantly in 2019. Meeting our new recycling targets will take real effort by consumers, retailers and the government but will deliver a real win-win for Ireland in terms of both environmental protection and making the most of earth’s scarce resources.”

For further information see the EPA website at www.epa.ie.

Further information: Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie

Notes to Editor

Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) legislation: WEEE is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the developed world.  Up to recently, a lot of WEEE was thrown into the bin and disposed of in landfill.  Improved regulation of the collection, recycling and disposal of WEEE has been law at European level (WEEE Directive) and brought into Irish law (WEEE Regulations) since 2005.  New Irish WEEE Regulations were published in March 2014, to implement changes that were introduced in Europe by the second WEEE Directive.

Proper disposal of batteries: Many electrical items are powered by batteries.  Batteries can contain heavy metals (mercury, cadmium, lead), which are the main cause for environmental concern.  If waste batteries are not disposed of correctly, heavy metals may leak when the battery corrodes, and so can contribute to soil and water pollution and endanger human health.  Due to the hazardous nature of batteries, separate legislation for the management of waste batteries was transposed into Irish law in 2008. The Battery Regulations include all types of batteries, such as portable, industrial and automotive.

Enforcement roles under the WEEE regulations and the Batteries regulations are assigned between the EPA and local authorities.

Obligations of Businesses

The regulations governing the management of WEEE and waste batteries cast a wide net. Those who import and place Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) and/or batteries on the Irish market (known as producers) are obligated, as are retailers, internet and catalogue sellers (known as distance sellers).

Producers must, among other things, register with Producer Register Limited (www.producerregister.ie), make a monthly declaration of the quantities of EEE and/or batteries placed on the market and finance the environmentally sound management of WEEE and batteries – which can be done by self-compliance or by joining a compliance scheme, either WEEE Ireland or ERP Ireland.

Amongst the obligations for a retail business are the need to take back waste electrical and electronic equipment and batteries from consumers, to correctly store and keep records of take back, to register with a compliance scheme that will ensure the correct management of any WEEE taken back and to display certain information signage in store.

Those who sell from a distance (for example via websites) can fall into the producer or the retailer category and consequently have their own obligations. Distance sellers who sell from one Member State to another are required to appoint a representative in the Member State into which they are selling, to fulfil the obligations of the regulations in that Member State.

Taking for example, the offence by an EEE producer of failing to register with the registration body (Producer Register Limited): the Agency will now be able to issue a Fixed Payment Notice for that offence, for which the amount that may be payable is €2,000 without having to take court action.