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REPIC launches WEEE forecasting project with Lancaster University

REPIC, the UK’s largest waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) compliance scheme, has funded a joint research project with researchers at the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business at the University of Lancaster to analyse data on WEEE flows to improve collection rates and forecasting in order to shape electronic waste recycling policy in the UK.

The project has been launched to better understand high-level electronic and electronic equipment (EEE) trends and WEEE generated flows and fates. This will involve quantifying and analysis of EEE put on the market and its lifecyle, as well as analysis of data about collection and recycling of WEEE.

The model currently used for setting targets follows a one-for-one basis, where for every new electrical product sold producer compliance schemes must collect an old electrical item for recycling in return. A key objective of the research is to look at the wider socio-economic factors and trends that have led to higher or lower collection of WEEE tonnages since the 2017 targets were set by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

REPIC launches WEEE forecasting project with Lancaster University

Figures published by the Environment Agency (EA) in September suggested that collections of WEEE had fallen in the second quarter of 2017, compared to the same period 12 months earlier. In October, Defra launched a consultation on potential changes to the WEEE system, effectively bringing in ‘open scope’ requirements, changing the way some types of WEEE are classified, further impacting on forecasting and compliance requirements.

The interdisciplinary team at the Pentland Centre made up of Dr Alison Stowell, Dr Dmitry Yumashev, Dr Lingxuan Liu and Dr Ivar Struijker Boudier, independently appointed by REPIC, will conduct the research using their expertise in areas ranging from operational research and waste policy, to ethical supply chains and applied mathematics.

With a REPIC grant of £66,207 to carry out the WEEE Quantification and Compliance Target study, the project aims to inform and shape the WEEE collection targets for 2018, estimate WEEE generation to enable produce compliance schemes to plan accordingly, scope further work to develop a dynamic flow model to forecast WEEE generation and help achieve future collection targets and provide indication of where further work could be carried out to fill priority data gaps.

Current target-setting model ‘challenging’

The new project partnership is the latest in a series of moves in recent months to increase WEEE reuse and recycling. Back in August, a £665,000 fund was funded by the Distributor Takeback Scheme and the compliance fee mechanism to support community projects aiming to encourage the reuse and recycling of WEEE.

Meanwhile, WEEE recyclers called for online retailers to assume the responsibilities of the ‘producer’ under the EU WEEE Directive amid accusations of freeriding on the part of the retailers back in September.

Commenting on the REPIC’s new partnership, Mark Burrows-Smith, REPIC CEO, said: “From the collection data that we have seen so far this year it is clear the buy and dispose model for target-setting is challenging at times of economic change. We know that wider socio-economic factors play a huge role in people’s purchasing and recycling behaviour. By collaborating with the research team at Lancaster University, we hope to be able to utilise the findings, to produce recommendations and costings for the development of a dynamic WEEE flow model.”

Dr Alison Stowell added: “We are proud to be involved in such an innovative project. Previous WEEE flow studies have focused on estimating WEEE generated and comparing this with actual data on WEEE collected through the producer compliance system. We are now considering how socio-economic factors and commodity prices influence what happens to WEEE.”

REPIC’s Environmental Affairs Manager, Sarah Downes, stated: “Another key objective of this research project is to establish the amount and types of EEE and WEEE which will be affected by the move to open scope including the fate of previously unobligated WEEE. This will help predict the amount and fate of WEEE generated in 2018 and recommend category targets for the producer compliance system. We will also look at previous and current work on substantiated estimates and better map the WEEE of ‘unknown whereabouts.”

The preliminary results of the research conducted by REPIC and the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business are due to be released in February 2018.

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