WEEE collection figures for 2018 fall short of target once again

Official figures for the recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in 2018 show that the amount of WEEE collected for recycling in the UK has once again fallen short of targets – despite targets being set to increase again for 2019.

Released today (1 March), the latest figures from the Environment Agency (EA) reveal that across the 2018 calendar year, 492,532 tonnes of household WEEE were collected by producer compliance schemes (PCS), falling some 44,500 tonnes short of the 2018 target of 537,065 tonnes set by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The 2018 figure is a decrease from the amount collected in 2017, which stood at 525,079 tonnes.

WEEE collection figures for 2018 fall short of target once againLooking at some of the individual WEEE category targets, the collection of Large Household Appliances fell well short of the 2018 target with 168,843 tonnes collected against a target of 190,171 tonnes. Collections for Small Household Appliances actually exceeded its target, however, with a total 38,045 tonnes collected against a target of 37,589 tonnes.

Despite falling short of the overall targets once again (the 2017 targets were missed by around 100,000 tonnes) Defra is set to increase the targets for 2019, pushing the collection target up to 550,132 tonnes. This would represent an increase on the 2018 target of around 13,000 tonnes. In order to meet the proposed target, total WEEE collections in the UK would have to increase by 12 per cent on the amount of WEEE collected in 2018.

The WEEE collection targets are calculated based on the amount of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) placed on market over the previous three years. The EU WEEE Directive requires that 65 per cent of the weight of EEE placed on the market in the preceding three years should be collected each year, up from 45 per cent before 2019

Where individual PCSs fall short of their targets, they are required to pay a compliance fee, which contributes to a fund used to finance projects aimed at boosting WEEE collections and recycling. Last year the fund stood at £8 million.

Over recent years, the tonnages of WEEE collected have fallen consistently, with targets repeatedly missed. Possible reasons for this include: the lightweighting of products, meaning that tonnages could drop even if the amount of units collected does not; increasing reuse and people keeping products for longer; and products potentially escaping the system through illegal export.

Calls have been made for government to adjust the model used to estimate EEE placed on the market and waste generated, against which targets are set, in order to reflect changes in product types, consumption and disposal patterns and socio-economic factors. Compliance scheme REPIC issued a report in October of last year urging a revision of the current model.

Commenting on the proposed targets for 2019, Phil Conran, Chair of the Approved Authorised Treatment Facility (AATF) Forum, which represents the UK’s WEEE reprocessors, said: “The AATF Forum welcomes the proposals put forward by Defra for the 2019 WEEE collection targets. We recognise that for some categories, these will be challenging. After two years of declining collections in Large Appliances and particularly, Small Mixed WEEE, the increases proposed by Defra are likely to lead to heavy dependence on the compliance fee at the end of the year.

“But we strongly believe there is significant potential to increase the amount of household and commercial WEEE collected under the regulated system to ensure it is properly treated through the AATF infrastructure. Over the last five years, 6.7 million tonnes of household EEE have been recorded as placed on the market but only 2.6 million tonnes have been recorded as collected. This suggests significant volumes leak out of the controlled system into unauthorised disposal routes, such as illegal exports.

“We believe that more must be done to meet these targets through physical collection, as this leakage creates a significant environmental impact and the use of the compliance fee will not achieve the 65 per cent target.”

You can view the full figures for WEEE collected and EEE placed on the market for 2018 on the government website.

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