WEEE collections fall short of 2017 targets

Collection targets for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) for 2017 have been missed, according to the latest statistics from the Environment Agency (EA).

Released on 1 March, the figures for Quarter Four of the 2016/17 financial year, when added to the totals for the rest of the year, show that 522,901 tonnes of household WEEE were collected by producer compliance schemes (PCS) in 2016/17, some 100,000 tonnes short of the target of 622,033 tonnes for 2017. This is significantly smaller than the 581,415 tonnes collected in 2016.

In terms of individual WEEE categories, Large Household Appliances and Display Equipment fell significantly short of their targets, with 182,189 tonnes and 54,188 tonnes collected against 2017 targets of 232,811 tonnes and 71,267 tonnes respectively.

WEEE collections fall short of 2017 targets

The rates recorded by the EA take into account the electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) placed on the market, and are calculated by dividing the tonnage of WEEE reported by PCSs by the tonnage of equipment placed on the market by producers in the same year. They do not, therefore, include WEEE that is not covered by producer obligations.

Commenting on the figures, John Redmayne, Managing Director of the European Recycling Platform UK, said: “The Q4 data confirms the pattern seen on a quarterly basis and throws up some interesting questions: is more WEEE being collected outside of the producer compliance system? Are EEE and WEEE getting lighter? Do these explain why collections of most WEEE streams - particularly LDA and Display - have dropped? And is this why less EEE was put on the UK market than in the previous year for the first time in five years?

“The WEEE targets are set annually by Defra, based on a data model which is used to predict the amount of WEEE that is expected to arise at collection points in the year ahead. Inevitably, this estimate will not always match the amount of WEEE that actually arises at those sites by the end of the year. ERP collects WEEE from sites across the UK, and we are now looking closely at the data from those collections, so that we can contribute to Defra’s consultation on the draft targets for 2018.”

It was revealed in September of last year that collection rates were on course to fall short of 2017 targets. Mark Burrows-Smith, CEO of REPIC, the largest WEEE producer compliance scheme in the UK, labelled the targets “ambitious” and called for more evidence-based research into how to set more accurate targets in the future.

Burrows-Smith sought to link the fall in the tonnage of WEEE collected to the fall in EEE being placed on the UK market, saying: “The 2017 WEEE data has now been published and confirms that arisings are short of targets. It is encouraging to see that as a long-term trend, overall return rates, as a percentage of all EEE, remain consistent at around 40 per cent.

“The amount of household EEE put on the market for most categories has fallen year on year, with an overall 6 per cent reduction between 2016 and 2017. With less EEE being purchased, it is unsurprising that the amount of WEEE being produced is also falling.

“All obligated WEEE entering the UK system is being collected and treated, with the PCS Balancing System ensuring that local authority sites are being serviced in accordance with legal standards. Similarly, the amount of non-obligated WEEE collected has fallen.

“The preliminary findings from an independent study by Lancaster University, which was commissioned by REPIC in 2017, confirm the link between EEE and WEEE arisings. Early findings also indicate that complementary flows, second hand markets, household residency times and component theft are all also impacting on the amount of WEEE generated and collected.

“This is an area where better data and intelligence will help inform future target setting. Priority areas for further research include used EEE markets, how long products stay in the home, unreported legal and illegal WEEE flows, and the mass balance for component theft.”

The 2017 figures for EEE placed on the market and WEEE collected can be read in full on the Environment Agency website.

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