Resource Use

Increase in household WEEE collection in 2015

In 2015, 521,609 tonnes of household WEEE was collected for recycling by Producer Compliance Schemes (PCS) and their members, a six per cent increase from 2014, according to Environment Agency (EA) data.

Figures released by the EA last week show the amount of WEEE collected in the UK and the amount of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) that was placed on the market in 2015.

The amount of household EEE placed on the market was 1,427,210 tonnes, up by 16 per cent from 2014. This means that the amount of household WEEE that was collected was equivalent to 36.5 per cent of what was placed on the market that year. That figure is 0.5 per cent less than the proportion collected in 2014.

‘Large household appliances’ were responsible for a higher tonnage than any other category of collected WEEE, at 178,776 tonnes, closely followed by ‘cooling appliances containing refrigerants’ (120,947 tonnes). There was significant growth in lamp collection rate, which rose from 29.3 per cent to 43.6 per cent from 2014.

The EA figures also report the amount of non-household WEEE collected over the course of the year: 2,064 tonnes – 40 per cent less than in 2014. The amount of non-household EEE on the market also decreased between 2014-15 by 24 per cent. However, the overall proportion of EEE recycled (compared to the amount on the market) decreased from 0.8 per cent in 2014 to 0.6 per cent in 2015.

For non-household WEEE, cooling appliances contributed the largest weight followed by ‘IT and telecoms equipment’.

Lamp recycling

Commenting on the growth in lamp recycling, Nigel Harvey, Recolight CEO, said: “It is particularly pleasing to see that the 2015 recycling rate bounced back up from 2014.  This is probably due, in part, to the recycling of fluorescent waste resulting from major LED integrated luminaire roll-outs in business premises across the UK. The lamp recycling rate from 2013 to 2014 saw a drop when, for the first time, the data included LED lamps as well as Gas Discharge Lamps. With very large quantities of LEDs being sold – but very few being returned as WEEE, the inclusion of LEDs inevitably reduced the rate.” 

“The luminaire recycling rate has increased from 2014 to 2015. However, the tonnage of luminaires collected in 2015 is only five per cent higher than in 2014.  The rate increase is therefore primarily due to the 12.7 per cent reduction in the tonnage of luminaires reported as put on the market.  This reduction is likely to be a result of dual use classification, which means that any luminaires that could be used by consumers are now out of scope of the WEEE Regulations.”

EEE lifespans becoming shorter

According to the United Nations Global E-waste Monitor, 41.8 million tonnes of WEEE was generated globally in 2014, a figure that is predicted to increase to 50 million by 2018.

The UK produces one million tonnes of WEEE per year – enough waste to fill six Wembley stadiums – while on average, each person in the UK buys almost three new electrical items each year, around 170 million nationally.

A study commissioned by the German Environment Agency revealed that the lifespans of EEEs are becoming shorter, with the amount of appliances replaced within five years due to defects increasing from 3.5 per cent (2004) to 8.3 per cent (2013). Another research project carried out by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in 2013 suggests that only seven per cent of electricals are reused, and a third end up in landfill.

The 2015, waste electrical and electronic equipment data can be found at the Environment Agency’s website.