On 19th February 2019, the European Commission published Regulation (2019/290)
aimed at establishing a single format for WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) registration and reporting across the European Union. The Regulation will apply in all EU Member States from 1st January 2020.
Currently, registration and reporting formats are different in almost every country. In many instances, registration and reporting procedures can even be different within an individual country, depending on the compliance solution that is implemented. The idea of the Regulation is that by adopting identical procedures and formats for every Member State, the administrative burden placed on WEEE producers will be reduced.
Key points of the Regulation
Annex I and II of the Regulation provide the registration and reporting formats that are to be used, respectively. Compared to what is being used in many countries now, the formats are very simple with mandatory elements which must be requested from producers, as well as optional elements which may also requested.
One important point to note is that harmonisation of reporting frequencies is not required. Thus, whilst the registration and reporting formats will likely become similar across Europe, how often producers are required to submit WEEE reports will continue to vary.
Issues with the Regulation
The Regulation is binding in its entirety in all EU Member States; thus, the Regulation does not need to be transposed into national laws. The procedures and formats will automatically enter into force across the EU from 1st January 2020 but it is questionable when we can expect to see them be used in practice in any one country.
Firstly, Member State authorities have very recently adapted their reporting formats to fit the new six-category scope which applied from 15th August 2018 under the WEEE Recast Directive. Arguably, it is unlikely that authorities will be eager to change reporting formats again so soon.
Secondly, compared to what is in place now, the proposed formats are very simple. It is therefore questionable whether the formats will gather the information that is required in particular countries. In the vast majority of cases, the reporting formats used are embedded into the data required for the recycling industry. Additionally, the registration content is normally in line with the requirements for all legal documents in that country to ensure that they are legally binding.
Finally, the registration and reporting formats in almost all Member States are enshrined into the implementing WEEE Regulations in that particular country. A change in the formats will therefore likely mean a change to the regulations in that country.
So what does this all mean in practice? Whilst the formats that the European Commission have proposed are a nice idea, it is unlikely that the administrative burden placed on producers will be significantly reduced.
One example of the inadequacies of the proposed registration format is that it only requests basic information about a producers compliance solution (i.e. whether they have a blocked bank account, whether they have individual compliance arrangements in place, etc). Many authorities require more specific information about the compliance arrangements that have been implemented by producers. For example, many authorities request what compliance scheme a producer is a member of so that the producers sales data can be matched against the collection and recycling data of their compliance scheme to ensure that targets are being met.
How will the Regulation apply in practice?
It is likely that the final submissions that are filed by the Regulatory Authorities in particular Member States will be in the format outlined in Regulation 2019/290. However, as the registration and reporting formats do not gather the information that is needed in many countries, the final submissions that are filed by the Regulatory Authorities may just be summaries of what WEEE producers submit to their compliance schemes / recyclers / authorised representatives.
This keeps the current registration and reporting formats in place, whilst adding an additional administrative step for Regulatory Authorities and/or compliance schemes and recyclers to a system that is already very complicated.