WEEE compliance fees total £8m after low collections in 2017
WEEE producer compliance schemes, which meet recycling obligations on behalf of their members – the producers of electrical and electronic equipment – must recycle a share of the national target for WEEE, with the size of the share based on the scope of the scheme’s members. If a compliance scheme does not fulfil its target, then it must pay a compliance fee to the government to make up for the amount of WEEE that was not recycled. The money collected in compliance fees then goes towards initiatives to boost recycling in years to come.
In 2017, collections of WEEE fell far short of national targets, with 522,901 tonnes of household WEEE collected out of a target 622,033. Not only is this figure short of the target, but it is also around 60,000 tonnes lower than the amount collected in 2016, news that was met with dismay by many in the industry.
The low collection figures led the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to propose reducing the 2018 targets by 14 per cent, news which was condemned by the AATF (Approved Authorised Treatment Facility) Forum, which represents over 80 per cent of UK WEEE recyclers, as lacking ambition. However, others have criticised the 2017 targets for being overly ambitious; Mark Burrows-Smith of compliance provider REPIC stated in September that “more evidence-based research is required to help set future collection targets”, and that the government needs to consider fluctuations in the amount of equipment placed on the market.
Now, as a result of these missed targets, the amount of money available from compliance fees paid in 2017 is markedly higher than previous years: in 2015, for instance, the fund was only £45,000. 2017’s £8-million compliance revenue will go to support projects aiming to improve the reuse and recycling of WEEE over the next three years.
One such project, led by ICER, the Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling, will be assessing the presence of persistent organic pollutants in plastics arising from WEEE. Alongside such technical research projects, £4 million will be invested in local projects and £3 million will go towards communications and behaviour change programmes.
The Joint Trade Association (JTA), a collective of trade associations including the majority of WEEE producers, created the methodology for the calculation of the 2017 compliance fees, which included a flat overhead cost of £3.50 per tonne to reflect variable overhead costs for local authorities. Commenting on news of the £8-million fund was Susanne Baker, chair of the JTA and head of techUK’s environment and compliance programme, who said: “The size of this year’s fund means that we can make a significant difference to how the UK WEEE regime operates and functions.
“There is no urgency to spend the money quickly; the focus will instead be on spending the fund carefully on projects that can deliver genuine and lasting improvements to the system, with the buy-in and support from the community of local authorities, businesses and civic society groups that manage and deal with these products at the end of life.”
In related news, WEEE compliance schemes in May welcomed the news that the government will be introducing a mandatory balancing system for all producer compliance schemes, which should ensure that the costs of collecting WEEE from local authorities are shared equally between schemes.
There is an open call for submissions to the WEEE compliance fund which closes on 30 August 2018. Ideas should be submitted to [email protected].