Memorandum submitted by the British Retail
The British Retail Consortium [BRC] represents
the whole range of retailers, from the large multiples and department
stores through to independents, selling a wide selection of products
through centre of town, out of town, rural and virtual stores.
Retail accounts for 5.2 per cent
of the whole UK economy.
Retail accounts for 11 per cent of
the UK workforce.
In the 12 months to March 2001 the
industry created 105,100 net new jobs.
Attached is a chronology of events prepared
by the British Retail Consortium on the implementation of the
Ozone Depleting Substances Regulations 2000 in the United Kingdom.
The aim of this submission is not to recount
the events of the last two years but to draw to the Select Committee's
attention a number of issues which the BRC believes the Select
Committee should consider, including:
Reinstating retail take-back schemes
for fridges and freezers;
Impact on investment in retail, hotel
and hospitality refurbishment;
The impact on the UK implementation
of the European Waste from Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
Incorporation of the European Hazardous
Waste List into the UK Special Waste Regulations.
Firstly, it is important to understand that
every retailers' take-back system have historically operated differently.
In broad terms, the large retailers have collected old fridges,
freezers, washing machines, tumble dryers and cookers from customer's
houses when delivering new products from regional depots. Old
products were returned to regional depots where recycling/refurbishing
contractors collected them. These contractors separated products
for refurbishment, export, resale or recycling. Independent retailers
have historically had relationships with local refurbishment companies.
Alongside these services many manufacturers
have delivered new products (ordered from retail stores) direct
from their warehouses and collected old products at the same.
These account for approximately 250,000 fridges and freezers a
year. These companies need to be involved in any discussions on
reinstating take-back systems. They have not been fully consulted
Retailers have offered these customer services
and accepted the costs of collection and transportation. Recycling/refurbishing
contractors have removed old product from sites free of charge
or at low cost, although we understand that many are now seeking
payment as the potential income from recycling has reduced or
ended. Several have withdrawn from the industry and we believe
may not re-enter. Retailers are not seeking finances for the collection
of old products but in order to reinstate services they need a
free, legal disposal route for the products they collect.
In November 2001 UK manufacturers and contractors
stopped offering retailers collection services as there was no
legal disposal route, of any scale, available to them. Retailers
had no choice but to stop offering this service to customers.
However, reinstating these services when disposal routes come
on line will not be simple. Many contractors have gone or will
go out of business before plants are built. Moreover, the economics
have changed forever with the ending of the export market.
Prior to the implementation of the ODS Regulations
approximately 70 per cent of fridges/freezers were exported for
second use, 15 per cent were refurbished for resale within the
UK and 15 per cent were sent for disposal/recycling. Thus 85 per
cent financed the disposal of 15 per cent.
However, the position is now radically different.
With no export market open and no projected increase in the UK
second-hand market the sale of 15 per cent refurbished fridges
cannot support the disposal of 85 per cent of the fridges collected.
Moreover, it has become apparent that the export/refurbishment
market for fridges has financially supported the collection and
disposal of cookers, washing machines and tumble-dryers, thus
collection services for these products are now also under threat.
These contractors have played an integral role
in the retail collection and best use of large white goods in
the UK but their business models have been radically altered.
This must be addressed for the refurbishment/recycling collection
systems to come back on line. If it cannot be made economically
viable for these contractors to continue to operate then an alternative
infrastructure involving local authorities will be required.
Any solution must take into account the varying
needs of retailers both large and small.
It was confirmed by DEFRA in December 2001 that
the ODS Regulations have in fact applied to commercial refrigeration
equipment since November 2000 in the same manner as for domestic
fridges and freezers. Commercial refrigeration equipment includes
fridges, freezers, vending machines and cold rooms in shops, pubs,
hotels and restaurants.
Businesses that are refurbishing are finding
it very difficult to agree the removal of old refrigeration equipment.
This will have severe financial implications for UK plc as refurbishments
worth £100 million are delayed or even postponed whilst suitable
storage/disposal routes are found for large volumes of commercial
refrigeration equipment. There are very good health and environmental
reasons why replacement of old equipment should not be delayed.
The BRC has argued strongly for the last few
years that in-store retail take-back as originally proposed in
the WEEE Directive is the worst possible environmental and economic
option for the collection of diverse electronic waste streams.
The BRC and our members were relieved when amendments were introduced
to the Directive, which allowed for alternative systems to in-store
The BRC believes that the systems in operation
in the UK until November 2001 with collection of large white goods
through the home delivery networks and small electrical goods
at local amenity sites would have ensured that the significant
contribution made by UK retailers would have enabled the UK to
have exceeded its national target. It is imperative therefore
that any solution to the current fridge crisis should take account
of this forthcoming Directive and ensures that the both economic
and environmental implications are properly evaluated. Any solution
should not be a short-term solution.
The UK Special Waste Regulations are being reviewed
to take account of changes to the European hazardous waste catalogue.
As a result, more waste types will be classified as hazardous
waste, including waste electrical appliances which contain CRTs,
lead, mercury, CFCs, HFCs, batteries etc. This includes many items
from televisions to single fluorescent tubes.
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 without the need for a waste management licence.
However, once categorised as Hazardous Waste, this exemption will
cease and there is currently no other applicable exemption, which
would mean that any retailer taking back end-of-life products
would require a full hazardous waste management licence. This
would be extremely costly, impractical and would undermine all
the aims of the WEEE Directive.
Moreover many waste sites and local authority
sites are not currently licensed to take hazardous waste and do
not having the requisite planning permissions.
The United Kingdom is supposed to have implemented
the Hazardous Waste list into UK law by 1 January 2002. The implications
of this change of regulations could be far more severe than the
current fridge crisis
British Retail Consortium
27 February 2002
1 See memorandum submitted by Dixons Group plc, Ev