Looking back to look forward: Planning a future WEEE system

REPIC’s research essay provides a fresh and well-informed perspective on the influencing trends for EEE going onto the market and WEEE made available for collection.

15-year milestone for WEEE sector

WEEE System REPICMuch has been achieved in the fifteen years since the implementation of the first Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations in the UK. From a standing start a national network of collection points operated by local authorities, producers, retailers and many other organisations has been established and in excess of 9.0 million tonnes of WEEE has been collected, treated, recycled and recovered.

During this time there have been significant changes in product technology, our use of electricals and the composition of WEEE. There have also been many external factors to navigate, many requiring changes to collection and treatment infrastructure. The WEEE sector has successfully adapted to manage these.

What does the essay tell us about the WEEE system?

Change is nothing new to the WEEE sector, the speed, scale and impact of a variety of fundamental developments; including digitalisation, other new and innovative product technologies, and changes in consumer purchasing habits, have all undeniably transformed the landscape over the last 15 years.

Looking Back to Look Forward’ highlights the rapidly changing landscape and key events which have influenced EEE placed on the market (POM) and WEEE available for collection since the start of the WEEE Regulations.

The trends in the flow of EEE and WEEE identified in the research

Despite the upward trend in the amount of EEE placed on the market, and increases in WEEE collection targets, most notably in 2017, the amount of WEEE made available for collection has not increased.

REPIC’s review of the data from the last 15 years illustrates the non-linear relationship between the two and the reasons for this. It also considers how WEEE arises and is collected, and activities that take place away from the WEEE system.

Understanding the past is crucial in planning a future WEEE system

Commenting on the essay, Louise Grantham, Chief Executive at REPIC, said: “Understanding the past is essential if we are to plan for the future. We need to know how much WEEE is likely to arise, who will be collecting it, required treatment capacity and types of technology needed to treat it and the resources (materials) that will be generated from treatment.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on purchasing and disposal of electricals, in particular, demonstrated that WEEE is different to many other wastes, in that the amount of EEE placed on the market in a year does not necessarily influence the amount of WEEE made available for collection in that year. In fact, there is a significant gap between the two figures, but this does not mean that the WEEE system is unsuccessful.

“Our analysis demonstrates that we need to establish alternative measures to determine what success looks like and where policy interventions may be required to influence this. As there are many interdependent and discrete factors influencing the amount of EEE placed on the market and WEEE made available for collection, the use of a WEEE collection target to measure success no longer fits with the objective of delivering a more circular economy. We look forward to contributing to these discussions.”

Complexities of the WEEE system that affect both EEE and WEEE

Readers of the essay will be provided with graphical analysis of data from the last 15 years that clearly presents the complexities of the WEEE system and the many different factors that affect the amount of EEE placed on the market and WEEE made available for collection.

WEEE essay REPIC launch graphic

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