UK ratifies new WEEE regulations on PV recycling


The British government will introduce its interpretation of the European Union’s WEEE Directive for the disposal of PV modules ahead of schedule on January 1, 2014, in a move that has been applauded by pan-European recycling organization PV Cycle.

Having been placed before Parliament on December 10, the U.K. has become the first EU member state to officially ratify its own national legislation on the laws, weeks in advance of the official February 14 deadline next year.

The WEEE Directive was updated in August 2012 to incorporate PV modules, with the industry given an 18-month transition period within which all 27 EU governments must incorporate new guidelines on PV waste into their national law.

"While it’s unusual to see the introduction of new regulations take effect before the legal deadline, it makes sense in this instance as the new regulations come into force at the start of a new compliance year, which is defined on a calendar year basis, and to introduce changes part way through the year would have caused confusion and additional costs," said PV Cycle U.K.’s country manager of producer compliance scheme, David Burton.

According to the new directive, all PV modules that have reached their end-of-life (either because their warranty has expired or they have been damaged) must be disposed of in the correct manner. PV Cycle, with local presence in a number of European countries, is an organization that helps coordinate the take back and waste disposal of PV modules, managing a number of collection points across Europe and offering guidance on how PV producers can comply with the law and recycle their products accordingly.

"The regulations are traditionally focused upon ensuring collection and recycling of consumer products, but not necessarily on the very nature of PV panels with their long lifecycle and B2B character," said Burton. "Thankfully, the U.K.’s Department of Businees, Skills and Innovation (BIS) have taken a pragmatic approach, in consultation with the PV sector, to ensure that the industry takes responsibility without damaging its long-term sustainability objectives."

For the U.K. PV market, the new regulations require all importers of PV panels into the U.K. to register with a Product Compliance Scheme, which takes effect from January 1, 2014. The scheme asks that all producers take full financial responsibility of the waste disposal of the PV panels they supply to the market, in addition to reporting all important data, such as numbers supplied and locations distributed to.