WEEE Q1 collection figures ahead of 2020 target
Collection figures for household waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) released today (1 June) by the Environment Agency (EA) for the first quarter of 2020 are slightly ahead of 2020 targets.
Though the collection levels are slightly ahead of 2020 targets, the published data only covers up to the end of March, meaning the figures only cover one week of the Covid-19 lockdown measures, which caused significant disruption to WEEE collections.
A total of 134,610 tonnes of household WEEE was collected by producer compliance schemes (PCS) in Q1, marginally ahead of the quarterly target of 134,494 tonnes needed to be on track to reach the annual target of 537,976 tonnes.
The total collected in Q1 is also ahead of the total collected in Q1 of 2019, which saw 122,950 tonnes of household WEEE collected.
Large Household Appliances make up the greatest collection tonnage at 58,268 tonnes, ahead of the Q1 target of 49,192 tonnes, with Cooling Appliances Containing Refrigerants representing the second largest tonnage at 32,485 tonnes, falling below its Q1 target of 34,609 tonnes.
The total collection figures are held up by the Large Household Appliances, with Small Household Appliances (8,097 tonnes collected), IT and Telecomms Equipment (9,359 tonnes), Display Equipment (10,841 tonnes), Electrical and Electronic Tools (5,886 tonnes) and Lighting Equipment (1,380 tonnes) all falling behind their respective targets.
In terms of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) placed on the market, 328,442 tonnes of household EEE entered the market in Q1 of 2020, down from 334,955 tonnes in Q1 of 2019.
WEEE collection targets are calculated based on the amount of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) placed on the market over the previous three years. It is required under the EU WEEE Directive – transposed into UK law as the WEEE Regulations 2013 – that 65 per cent of the weight of EEE placed on the market (POM) or 85 per cent of WEEE generated (WG) in the preceding three years should be collected each year.
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. This fee has been as high as £8 million in recent years.
The annual WEEE target for 2020 is 12,601 tonnes lower than 2019’s target of 550,577 tonnes, which was missed for the third consecutive year after 494,976 tonnes of household WEEE was collected in 2019.
Outlook ‘bleak’ for WEEE in 2020
Despite the fact collection figures are slightly ahead of where they need to be to meet the 2020 annual target, the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures implemented to contain the spread of the disease are expected to greatly affect collection figures for the rest of the year due to disruption to local authority waste services and the closure of retailers.
In light of the difficulties for the WEEE sector thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said it will take into account the impacts of Covid-19 when working out the compliance fee methodology for this year, while the WEEE Fund, which is financed by the compliance fee, has launched funding and an awareness campaign to support the WEEE sector.
Commenting on the Q1 figures, Louise Grantham, Chief Executive of REPIC, said: “The last week of the quarter was affected by the Covid-19 lockdown which resulted in the temporary closure of many WEEE collection sites and activities.
“It is therefore encouraging that total household WEEE collections in the quarter were slightly ahead of the 2020 target. The data also reports an increase in collections when compared to the same quarter in 2019, however this seems largely reflective of the implementation of the revised small mixed WEEE and LHA protocols.
“Total EEE placed on the market has decreased slightly in the period, with small increases in the Large Household Appliance, Display and Cooling categories being offset by reductions in most of the Small Mixed WEEE categories.
“We are facing an uncertain outlook as the sector works together to manage the operational changes necessitated by Covid-19. Whilst many WEEE collection activities have restarted, the nature of the changes required means achievement of the 2020 target currently seems unlikely. We are fortunate that the UK WEEE regime provides the option of a compliance fee as a way for PCSs to comply in the event there is insufficient WEEE available for collection.
“The year will be financially challenging for all organisations and we welcome Defra’s commitment that it will “absolutely take account of the actual impacts that Covid-19 has had on collections during the year” when setting a compliance fee methodology.”
Robbie Staniforth, Head of Policy at Ecosurety, added: “It is pleasing to see a marked increase in collections in the first quarter compared to much lower collection rates during this period over the last two years. Although the overall uptick is due to the disproportional effect large domestic goods has on the total data, it is still pleasing to see a return to the higher collection levels of 2017.
“However, the outlook for 2020 is fairly bleak in terms of meeting targets. Q1 saw very little impact of Covid-19 on operations at household recycling sites. We know April and May will be fallow months as many sites either had to close or deprioritise the acceptance of WEEE items. It highlights just how reliant the UK WEEE compliance system is on council operated sites. It is clear that citizens need a greater diversity of options for disposing of old items to be reused or recycled.”
Nigel Harvey, CEO of lighting compliance scheme Recolight said: “The Q1 WEEE data shows that the UK collected 27 per cent of its full year 2020 target. That could imply that the UK is on track to meet, or even beat the target this year. Sadly, that is not the case. Lockdown has had a profound impact on both local authority and commercial WEEE collections in Q2. As a result, it already seems likely that full year targets will not be met in most WEEE categories – in spite of the fact that lower targets were set to partially take Covid-19 into account.”
“With some LA sites now re-opening, albeit with strict limits, there will be a gradual increase in WEEE collections following the collapse in April. And it is pleasing that the WEE Fund is now financing an awareness campaign encouraging consumers to bag WEEE until lockdown ends. Hopefully that will reduce the risk of more WEEE being placed in the residual waste bin.”
You can view the Q1 WEEE collection figures on the government’s website.