Material Focus sets out role of matching for UK WEEE industry

Today (9 February), Material Focus has released a report outlining the benefits of introducing a ‘matching’ system within the UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) industry.

View of computer motherboardNew research, led by Oakdene Collins and The WEEE Forum, shows ‘matching’ could reduce competition amongst producer compliance schemes (PCS). The findings will support the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) impending consultation on UK WEEE Regulations.

The report, entitled ‘A UK WEEE Matching System: A feasibility study of options’, explores current ‘matching’ systems in countries across the EU to determine whether a similar scheme would be feasible in the UK context. According to Material Focus, a system based on matching by collection points is best suited to the UK context. This would involve matching PCSs through a collaboration and negotiation-based process. 

‘Matching’, also known as ‘allocation’, allows PCSs to collect WEEE from different sources at a level matching their members’ combined market share. This differs to the current UK system, under which PCSs compete for access to designated collection facilities. This system, Material Focus states, can give rise to economic distortion, due to the differences in the nature and costs of designated collection facilities (DCFs) and WEEE streams.

With a reduction of competition amongst PCSs for collection sources, more resources would be available to improve other areas of the WEEE system. ‘Matching’ would also require PCSs to engage in collection actitivies, and would reduce the use of WEEE evidence purchase, Material Focus asserts.

Implementing a ‘matching’ system sector-wide, the report notes, would require considerable investment and financial resources, whilst impacting a range of stakeholders. Effectiveness of a matching system also relies on wider changes and efforts from the WEEE system overall. Whilst a ‘matching’ system may not directly encourage more WEEE collections, it could encourage the introduction of revisions to the WEEE system overall.

Executive Director of Material Focus, Scott Butler, said: “Working with a range of industry stakeholders we have identified, funded and published research on a number of important WEEE issues. This latest report adds to this work, and we hope will help inform stakeholders as they develop their responses to the upcoming and eagerly awaited DEFRA consultation on the UK WEEE System.”

Vivian Shi, authoring of the report with Oakdene Hollins added: “Interviewees from other European countries that have a matching approach broadly agreed that, when designed and enforced appropriately to their countries' contexts, matching has created a harmonised and stable system, and a level playing field for competition. This has allowed for more efficient and productive use of resources for PCS improvement and innovation.”