Jun 7, 2016


Heather was not in the best of spirits this week, since she had taken over as logistics Director for a leading e-tailer she had realized that the last mile was far from easy…especially as a large part of her assortment were white goods.

After several trial runs, she had only just found a reasonable solution for carrying what suppliers call “big, heavy & ugly” items. She had even been able to arrange some kind of interactive delivery and weekend or evening deliveries. Now she had learned that according to the so called EU “WEEE Directive” she would need to ensure that of the goods delivered (by weight), 65% of the old ones would be collected for recycling. This implied a carry in service and “swap” of items.

The problem was that in her country, there were almost no “white glove” (specialist, value added services including carry in, mounting/connection and removal of old items) suppliers with national coverage. Some of her competitors had set up "in house" last mile capability but this was expensive to set up and her boss had doubts whether they should get into an area that was not core for them.

You can imagine her delight when her XPO sales representative called, later that week, to inform her that they had just bought a local company and were about to introduce a high quality “white goods” service. “Just what the doctor ordered” she murmured to herself with a wry smile.

The WEEE Directive is actually good news for the environment but is a real challenge for e-commerce and their last mile carriers. While officially it’s the producers responsibility, it will be, in practice, the retailer who will need to organise the last mile in most cases. “Producer responsibility” means that a minimum collection rate is achieved annually. From this year, the minimum collection rate will be 45 % calculated on the basis of the total weight of WEEE collected expressed as a percentage of the average weight of EEE placed on the market in the three preceding years. Countries will need to ensure that the volume of WEEE collected evolves gradually during the period from 2016 to 2019.

From 2019, the minimum collection rate to be achieved annually will be 65 % of the average weight of EEE placed on the market in the three preceding years in the Member State concerned, or alternatively 85 % of WEEE generated on the territory of that Member State.

This means that, within a few years (unless a system of draconian fines are implemented to ensure the public recycle themselves) delivery to curb side will not be a viable solution for white goods in that most deliveries will need to be “carry in”…as well as “carry out” of the old item. Today there are very few scalable specialists in this field; Rhenus, XPO and a handful of others. This will be an interesting area of opportunity…and risk for those e-tailers who are not prepared. Any views?