Provisional WEEE Q2 figures show significant fall in collections

Collection targets for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) for the second quarter of 2020 have been missed, according to provisional data released by the Environment Agency (EA).

The provisional figures, which are still to be verified by the EA and will be assessed throughout August, suggest that 64,039 tonnes of household WEEE was collected for recycling by producer compliance schemes (PCS) in Q2 2020, down from 134,610 tonnes in Q1.

Pile of old computers.Compared to the same quarter in 2019, where 122,981 tonnes of household WEEE was collected, this represents a drop of 52 per cent.

The provisional Q2 figures cover the period April to June, which includes the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw severe disruption to household waste collections and the almost universal closure of Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs), which deeply affected the WEEE sector.

Q1 figures of 134,610 tonnes collected were actually ahead of the quarterly target of 134,494 tonnes needed to be on track to reach the annual target of 537,976 tonnes, but a fall in collections in Q2 was always expected due to the pandemic.

With collection figures standing at 36.7 per cent of the total 2020 target, while there is some hope of a recovery, 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.

Robbie Staniforth, Head of Policy at compliance specialists Ecosurety, said: "While the drop in collections is both anticipated and significant, there is some hope that we can make up lost ground with higher collection rates expected in the second half of this year. Local authority services are coming back to normality and we have seen private collections starting to rebound slightly. However, consumer confidence and industry output is so low that we have now entered a recession. The obvious upside is that citizens will be keeping their machines and devices longer but that will lead to a drop in the amount discarded and difficulty in meeting the targets set for this year.”

Nigel Harvey, Chief Executive of lighting compliance scheme Recolight, added: "Covid-19 has clearly had a significant impact on WEEE collections in Q2, with virtually all WEEE streams below target.  It seems highly unlikely that we will be able to regain lost ground, and so most streams will be well short of their full year target by year end. That has implications both for the treatment sector – with lower tonnages available to recycle, and for producers and PCSs which will need to use the compliance fee.

Normally, when the annual target is missed, PCSs and producers are obligated to pay a compliance fee if they fail to obtain sufficient evidence to meet their collection targets under the 2013 WEEE Regulations.

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.

Staniforth said: “All industry eyes will now be on the methodology selected for the Compliance Fee. It needs to incentivise collections for the rest of the year without being too punitive on producers who cannot be over-burdened by the effects of the pandemic on the recycling sector. It will be a tricky balancing act for the proposers and Defra. One significant change we would like to see is the removal of the escalator in previous methodologies that sees big schemes and producers pay less per tonne than smaller ones."

Harvey added: “So it is good that WEEE recyclers were offered interest free loans from the WEEE Fund earlier this year. That will hopefully help to tide them over during this challenging time. But for producers and PCSs, we need a 2020 compliance fee that takes full account of the tonnage reduction. It needs to be very carefully designed. It should not burden producers and their schemes with large compliance fee payments that would be the logical consequence of a failure to hit targets. But at the same time, it must continue to incentivise WEEE collections. Meeting those two potentially conflicting objectives will require careful economic analysis coupled with innovative thinking."

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