Coronavirus sees Q2 WEEE collections fall short

The latest collection figures for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) for the second quarter (Q2) of 2020 have been missed due to the severe disruption caused by coronavirus, according to data released by the Environment Agency (EA).

Published yesterday (1 September), the figures show that 64,111 tonnes of household WEEE were collected by producer compliance schemes (PCS) between April and June 2020, down from 122,981 tonnes in the same period in 2019, largely confirming provisional figures released in August.

A collage of the main types of WEEECombined with figures from the first quarter (Q1) of 2020, when 134,610 tonnes of household WEEE were collected, the figures show that 197,753 tonnes of household WEEE were collected across the first half of 2020, representing 36.8 per cent of the total 2020 target of 537,976 tonnes.

The WEEE sector was deeply affected by the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, when the government enforced a national lockdown across the country from the end of March. This saw huge disruption to household waste collections and the near total closure of Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs), where much household WEEE is collected from.

With collections on course to miss the annual targets, it is very likely that a compliance fee will need to be paid to cover the shortfall. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) stated that it would take the impact of Covid-19 into account when considering methodologies for this year’s compliance fee, which has been welcomed by the sector.

Louise Grantham, chief executive, REPIC on what the figures tell us: "The lockdown period had a significant impact on WEEE collections, with total household WEEE collections in the quarter being 48 per cent of those reported in Q1 2020 and 52 per cent of those in the same period in 2019. Although collections through most routes reduced, the most significant reduction was in collections from DCFs (Designated Collection Facilities). 
“There has undoubtedly been some catch up in WEEE collections following the re-opening of most collection sites, however the WEEE collections data for Q3 2020 will provide us with a better indication of the impact Covid-19 will have on achieving the 2020 collection targets."

A table showing the collection figures for the main types of WEEE.Robbie Staniforth, Head of Policy at Ecosurety, said: "The results show that collections are significantly down due to the lockdown restrictions. The data reflects the difficult time experienced by reprocessors and local authorities throughout the pandemic. However, these figures actually represent a remarkable effort on their part for ensuring that any material continues to flow through our recycling system.

“While the outlook for quarter three is now much better, these figures all but confirm the need for a compliance fee this year. The industry continues to make best efforts to try and claw back some of the deficit but the feeling is that the shortfall in collections is simply too great to be made up. We look on with interest to see the proposals put forward by stakeholders. It will be more important than ever to ensure that the fee is fair for all producers, something that has represented a challenge to date.”

Although collections are expected to pick up in the third quarter of 2020 and support has been provided to the sector, with the WEEE Fund providing £5 million of support grants and loans to WEEE recyclers, it is very unlikely that the 2020 target will be met, which would make it the fourth year in a row targets had been missed.

You can find the WEEE collection figures for this year in full on the government website.

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