Material Focus to fund research into solutions for electrical waste

Non-profit organisation Material Focus has launched funding for new research into solutions to address some of the significant losses of electrical waste currently occurring in the waste management system.

Material Focus’s new report, ‘Electrical Waste: Challenges and Opportunities’, identified that in the UK currently 500,000 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) are lost from the system through being thrown away, hoarded, stolen or illegally exported. 

Electrical wasteThis is the third round of research funding that Material Focus has launched. A range of innovative research proposals and solutions are being considered as part of the research funding to help support the growth of recycling and reuse of waste electricals.

Scott Butler, Executive Director, Material Focus said: “The research will be vital to ensuring that we identify solutions to addressing the huge amount of electrical waste that in the UK is currently being thrown away, hoarded, stolen or illegally exported. We are seeking research proposals that provide innovative solutions to this challenge.

“A key component of the research will be to ensure that these solutions have buy-in from a range of stakeholders across the sector to ensure that they are practical and viable to deliver.”

Insights from this research aim to galvanise new approaches to WEEE recycling, such as innovative models of collection, better enforcement, and more efficient use of resources, with buy-in from local authorities, businesses and community groups.

Material Focus is seeking a range of applications for research proposals in the region of £20,000 to £50,000. 

Following research that showed UK households are throwing away 155,000 tonnes of small electricals every year, Material Focus (formerly the WEEE Fund), launched the new UK-wide ‘Recycle Your Electricals’ campaign.

These disused electrical products would have a total resale value of £17 billion, if they were reused instead of being hoarded in households or disposed of in the wrong way.

The UK Government sets annual targets for the recycling of all waste electricals under the UK WEEE Regulations 2013. If producers of electrical appliances do not meet this target, then they contribute towards the WEEE compliance fee. 

Since 2017 over £15 million has been raised through teh compliance fee, which pays for a range of activities, including communications, behaviour change activities, increasing  recycling collection points and options and technical research.

WEEE is a fast growing problem both in the UK and globally with a report released in July revealing a 21 per cent surge in global e-waste in the last five years.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put even more pressure on the sector, with WEEE recycling targets unlikely to be met this year due to the disruption caused by lockdown. For months, electrical applications were unable to be collected because of retail stores and Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) being closed.

With a sizeable shortfall expected, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has stated that any methodology for calculating the 2020 WEEE compliance fee will take the Covid-19 pandemic into account.

For more information on how to apply for research funding go to the Recycle Your Electricals website and sign up as a research applicant.

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