Dr. Philip Morton, CEO of REPIC, outlines why we should be targeting waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive recast introduced higher targets for WEEE collection, increasing the minimum amount that needs to be collected by member states, first from 2016, then from 2019 onwards.
From 2016, the target becomes 45 per cent relative to electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) put on the market in the previous three years. From 2019, the WEEE target becomes 65 per cent of EEE put on the market, or 85 per cent of WEEE generated. The methodology for calculating WEEE generated is being developed by the European Commission, using estimates of WEEE generated from data on product lifecycles.
The change from a weight-based collection figure to a percentage figure based on EEE sold is a key shift for the WEEE system. By 2016, the UK needs to recycle an amount of WEEE equivalent to 45 per cent of the total weight of EEE placed on the market during the prior three years.
To give an example, the current collection rate through producer compliance schemes (PCSs) is around 35 per cent, requiring a further 135,000 tonnes to be found from other sources. Member states can count WEEE from other sources too, and will need to, in order to meet the new levels.
A weight-based target for WEEE, driven by sales of new EEE is a rather blunt tool. Product weight and lifecycles are constantly changing, so the effect of new EEE sales is not as predictable as one might imagine.
A target based on WEEE generation is a preferable one, assuming it is properly derived. A WEEE-generated target allows for the fact that member states are at different market maturities because consumers purchase EEE and discard WEEE to differing degrees. In the interim, much care will be needed when setting new WEEE stream targets.
The weight debate
EEE continually evolves, with some appliances becoming smaller and thinner to meet the needs of modern consumers, and others becoming much heavier. These fundamental changes to EEE present challenges for an EEE weight-based target methodology.
As such, it makes great sense to consider a more intelligent system of capturing and counting WEEE. A properly developed WEEE-generated target, including WEEE collected and treated through all acceptable routes can achieve this.
The new regulations
The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) introduced many key changes when transposing the recast in the UK regulations, which will continue to have a positive impact on WEEE collection rates.
The new WEEE Regulations were designed to create a fairer, more transparent arena for recycling WEEE. Since adopting them, the visibility of the WEEE treatment route has improved for everyone. PCSs and collectors are now working together more efficiently, and the UK can continue to maintain a high WEEE collection rate.
The UK regulations also reflect the recast by enabling the use of substantiated estimates of WEEE collected through complementary routes to meet targets. Higher targets for 2016 and beyond mean counting WEEE collection through all acceptable channels is more necessary than ever.
Following a positive first year under the new UK regulations, it is now time to focus on the targets going forward. Rather than rely on a historic figure for collected WEEE, many stakeholders are keen to see
a properly derived, accurate WEEE-generated target based system implemented from 2019. Let’s hope we get one.