Valpak asks: are electrical retailers prepared for mandatory in-store take-back?

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From 1 January 2021, legislation is changing. Valpak feedback shows that many of the 600 retailers affected do not have plans in place for the take-back of waste products in-store.

Retailer take-back has been a requirement since the introduction of the WEEE regulations in 2006, but many retailers signed up to the Distributor Take-Back Scheme (DTS), which funded local councils to collect waste products on their behalf. When the DTS ends in January, more than 600 larger businesses will be affected. The remaining 600 will need to have systems in place by 2022.

Valpak commercial account manager Matt Luntley said: “Retailers have already faced a great many new challenges in 2020. While most are aware of this change, no one can predict how popular the new scheme will prove with the public. This makes forward planning very difficult.

“On the positive side, with only 35 per cent of household waste recycling centres operating at normal levels1, there is a real opportunity for retailers who embrace the new scheme to gain additional footfall with the introduction of in-store take-back.

“Retailers need to assess the impact of different collection systems. For example, collecting from a central distribution route incurs the lowest costs, but requires a greater level of administration than collection from individual stores. Staff training and variations in requirements across the devolved nations also need to be taken into consideration.”

As well as operating its own WEEE collection service, Valpak is the UK’s largest compliance scheme. It has been liaising closely with retailers and with the enforcement body, the Office for Product Safety and Standards, to clarify the finer details. Luntley said: “The big challenge for retailers at this stage is uncertainty over participation levels, so it helps to build in flexibility. At Valpak, for example, we supply our own collapsible pallet box, or take palletised items. Collections can also be scheduled or arranged when needed.”

Along with other EU countries, the UK has failed to hit its target for recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment for the last three years. The new scheme is expected to make around 5,000 extra drop-off points available which, it is hoped, will have a big impact on the volume of WEEE recycled in the UK.

1https://www.adeptnet.org.uk/system/files/documents/ADEPT 20Waste 20Survey 2016 20WC 20070920.pdf

Editor’s notes: 

  • Valpak is the largest environmental compliance scheme in the UK. It works with major names, such as J Sainsbury’s, ASOS, and Miele, and manages compliance for more than 4,000 businesses. In 2017, it celebrated its 20th anniversary.
  • In 2018, Valpak was purchased by Reconomy. Reconomy is the UK’s market-leading provider of outsourced recycling and resource management services. It manages approximately 3 million tonnes of waste annually, and works with thousands of UK businesses – from SMEs through to large blue-chip companies – helping them to manage their waste in a responsible, sustainable and cost-effective way. Reconomy principally operates across four key sectors: commercial construction, housebuilding, infrastructure and business & industry.
  • Valpak services include:
    • compliance under Packaging, WEEE, and Battery Directives;
    • data management services;
    • international compliance;
    • recycling services (total waste management options and solutions for niche materials);
    • consultancy; and,
    • accreditation under environmental schemes, such as Zero Waste to Landfill. 
  • In 2016, following a request from a major retailer, Valpak launched its Data Insight Platform. The platform is a bespoke product which allows customers to scrutinise their supply chains. It can be used to monitor areas such as sustainability in packaging, or to ensure that requirements such as the Modern Slavery Act 2015 are met.