Fabian Demicoli

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Implementation: Three final stumbling blocks

The implementation of the WEEE Directive is now round the corner. In mid April a consultation document was issued by the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change together with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. The consultation document focused mainly on amendments to the Eco Contribution Act and amendments to Legal Notice 204 of 2014.

Green MT, together with GRTU Malta Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises, welcomed the draft amendments which clearly showed a commitment by Government to deliver this Budget 2015. The draft amendments included the abolishing of Eco Contribution related to electrical and electronic equipment including refrigeration and air-conditioning, heating and cooking apparatus, IT and telecommunications equipment and other related equipment.

In response to this public consultation GRTU and Green MT issued feedback document which was forwarded by 8th May 2015 as requested and agreed with Minister Hon Leo Brincat. Beyond this date only one consultation meeting was held with MEPA officials who were responsible to discuss the feedback issues provided by stakeholders and others who formed part of this consultation.

During the meeting it was established that a number of proposals put forward by GRTU and Green MT were accepted and thus amendments were made to the legislation accordingly to reflect stakeholders input including producers of WEEE and Scheme operators.

The amendments now include the definition of local agency and the relation between a Local Council and the said agency together with additionally noting that Scheme will only need to take the amount of EEE from the local agency in order to meet its producer’s obligations pro rata.

Schemes representing producers will be able to provide a recycling insurance instead of a blocked bank account. The capping for self-compliant producers has now been removed. Although legislative issues relating to MEPA’s remit were amended by MEPA itself, a number of cardinal issues that were put forward by Green MT and GRTU have as yet not been discussed further.

GRTU and Green MT continue to contend that prior to implementing the amended legislation any legal liability of producers of EEE for the period 2007 to 31st August 2015 needs to be settled once and for all. We have proposed that MEPA, being the Competent Authority at present responsible for this legislation should enter into a settlement agreement with EEE producers who had paid Eco Contribution in that period. Without this, moving on is not an option. MEPA have outlined that this needs a Cabinet decision and is not part of their remit. We insist on this issue and we duly hope that these settlement agreements are all in place by 31st August 2015.

A second issue is the cost of WEEE material being handed to a Scheme by a local agency, namely Wasteserv. It was agreed that the Minister will be the one who would decide on the final price that Schemes would take over this material, however duly hoping that the Minister does not pass the buck back to Wasteserv. In a recent meeting held earlier this week with Wasteserv officials, we were made aware that the fee to be paid by Schemes would be circa Euros 100 per tonne. At face value this is not acceptable at all and Schemes should hold firm and not accept such a fee. Schemes should not be made to pay approximately €580,000 to be given back this material. We are sure that managing WEEE in these Civic Amenity sites is not that costly. If it is, it is high time these CA sites were sent to a privatization process. Schemes need to approximately collect and recycle 42% of market placement in 2016 which is approximately 5800 tonnes based on current approximate market placement of 14,000 tonnes.

Last but not least, GRTU and Green MT have objected to anyone having a permit for a WEEE Scheme, a WEEE treatment and storage facility and at the same time having a Scrap metal facility permit. Should this remain in place it would mean the end of WEEE implementation from the very beginning. Such a situation raises concern and as such, MEPA permitting Directorate were requested to advise whether inspections have been held at this facility since December 2014, when this permit was issued. The reply stated that the facility has not been inspected since but will be inspected in the coming weeks. On receiving this answer we requested MEPA permitting directorate to provide a list of facilities inspected from January 01, 2014 to 31st December 2014. To date no answer has been forthcoming. This implies concerns on the seriousness shown by the Competent Authority who in this respect seems to issue paper or desk permits only without any further checks down the line. This is not acceptable and Competent Authorities should make sure that Environmental Legislation is adhered to at all times.

The above three issues, namely past legal liability to the WEEE Directive, the issue of cost of WEEE material being handed to Schemes, and finally the vertical permitting including a scrap metal facility need to be addressed by Government prior to initiating implementation. The past gives us good reason to believe that we are there to make sure the business community does not go through unneeded stumbling blocks, neither now or in the future in relation to WEEE implementation. Government needs address these issues now. Publishing amendments to the present legislation without tackling these three issues will present a scenario which is unacceptable to the business community. Whilst being aware that there is enough good will, this has to be reflected in action now. Proceeding without ironing out these concerns will only lead to unnecessary litigation which is not sought for by any stakeholder who is part and parcel to the implementation of this Directive.

 

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