WEEE collection figures far behind 2017 targets

Figures for household waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collected by Producer Compliance Schemes (PCS) and their members are falling far behind the targets set by the Department for Environment, Food and Agriculture (Defra) back in April 2017, according to recently released Environment Agency (EA) figures for April-June (Q2 2017).

Defra set an overall 2017 target for household WEEE collection of 622,033 tonnes, an increase of 14 per cent from 2016’s 581,415-tonne target (of which 580,262 tonnes were collected), based on average annual growth of WEEE collected for each category since 2012 and adjustments for market dynamics.

However, the EA data shows that collection figures for Q2 2017 are currently lagging behind those for the same period in 2016, with 133,171 tonnes collected compared to 2016’s 150,993 tonnes, which, when added to the lower figures for January-March (137,807 in 2017 against 146,998 in 2016), show the 2017 collection figures so far for January-June sit at around 85 per cent of the collection target at 274,978 tonnes.

In the January-June 2017 period, around 44 per cent of the 619,756 tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment put onto the market was collected, compared to around 45 per cent for the same period in 2016.

‘Large household appliances’ were yet again the most collected item in terms of weight, with 100,678 tonnes collected between January-June 2017, followed by ‘cooling appliances containing refrigerants’ at 64,939 tonnes.

The EA also collects data on the total non-household WEEE collected, with 4,969 tonnes collected during the January-June 2017 period - an increase of 25 per cent from on 2016 figures for the same period at 3,969 tonnes.

‘Lighting equipment’ represented the largest type of non-household WEEE collected, with ‘cooling appliances containing refrigerants’ coming in just behind.

Targets too ambitious?

Commenting on the EA’s figures, Mark Burrows-Smith, CEO of REPIC, the largest WEEE producer compliance scheme in the UK, said: “The quarter two data shows just how ambitious the WEEE collection targets for 2017 are. The April–June 2017 data shows similar levels of collection to the previous quarter with less than 50 per cent of the target collected across every major category, and particular short fallings in Cooling, Display and LDA, at a time when the trend for collections in these categories usually rises.

“While we remain committed to achieving the targets set, REPIC strongly believes that more evidence-based research is required to help set future collection targets. It’s imperative to the future of the system that we look beyond the buy and dispose model and instead factor in the impact of consumer economics and commodity price fluctuations into the mix.

“This is particularly important in understanding the why and the how EEE becomes WEEE, especially for items that aren’t being recycled through the DCF/household collection facilities.”

Bringing WEEE back

The news that WEEE collection rates are down both in terms of percentage of target collected and actual tonnage of material collected comes against a backdrop of an increased drive from producers and retailers to increase WEEE reuse and recycling.

On 1 August new funding to increase WEEE reuse and recycling was announced, with £665,000 coming from the Distributor Takeback Scheme (DTS) to fund community groups to run WEEE recycling and reuse projects.

Meanwhile, a recent report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) - ‘Switched on to value: Powering business change’ - showed that fewer than 10 per cent of people surveyed for the report used household WEEE recycling schemes, while more than one third were concerned about sensitive data being retrieved from old equipment, while some 83 per cent of respondents expressed a preference for a retailer take-back or trade-in service. 

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