On 1st January 2014, the UK WEEE Regulations came into force, including – for the first time ever – photovoltaic (PV) modules (or panels as they are more commonly called in the UK).
A PV ‘Producer’ under the UK WEEE Regulations is defined as:
- A UK PV manufacturer who sells PV panels under its own brand
- An importer of PV panels into the UK market
- A UK business selling, under its own brand, PV panels manufactured (or imported) by someone else
All UK PV panel companies defined as Producers will be required to comply with their various obligations under the new WEEE Regulations from 1st January 2014.
While all PV Producers will need to register via a Producer Compliance Scheme – an industry-managed take-back and recycling scheme – and submit relevant data related to products destined for the household market (B2C) and those which will not be used by households (B2B), the UK legislation has significantly different requirements for both B2C and B2B sales of products:
- Household photovoltaic panels: PV Producers will be required to finance the collection of PV panels on a market share basis. Within a new PV category, if a Producer, for example, places on the UK market 10%, by weight, of new panels in any one year then that Producer would pay for the collection and treatment of 10% of any old panels (irrelevant when first placed on the market) collected in the following year.
- Non-household photovoltaic panels: PV Producers will be required to finance the collection and recycling of PV panels which carry the wheeled bin symbol – or finance the collection and recycling of PV panels which don’t carry the wheeled bin symbol, provided that such panels are being replaced by new ones at the same time.
The British legislation has introduced a new requirement for installers who must join a ‘Distributor Take-back Scheme’. Producers have to be part of a ‘Producer Compliance Scheme’.
The creation of a separate category for PV panels
Thanks to the consultation between the PV sector and the UK government, the WEEE has granted PV panels a special status. This new category dedicated to PV panels requires the financing of the collection and recycling of PV WEEE – which at this stage is still at a very low volume in the UK PV market.
Had a new category not been created, PV Producers would end up paying heavily for the collection and recycling of consumer WEEE as the legal financing obligations are related to weight of products placed on the market (and PV panels are, by far, the heaviest ‘appliance’ being used by householders and yet so little PV WEEE is being collected).
The condition that UK Government placed on the PV sector, in return for this special category status, is “on the basis that the Government is satisfied that PV Producers are able to deliver a sustainable strategy for the collection and treatment of end-of-life PV panels”.
For some years now, the UK PV market could already rely on an existing take-back and recycling network for PV waste. The creation of an own PV category will enable the PV sector to have more control over financing the collection and recycling of PV panels and would mitigate risks related to the market share calculation commonly used in the household EEE market.