WEEE Q2 collection figures raise prospect of missing 2019 targets

WEEE Fridges and Freezers
WEEE collection figures for the second half of 2019 (January-June) put UK at risk of missing annual targets for the third year in a row
The Environment Agency’s household waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collection figures for the second quarter of 2019 (April to June), released on Sunday (1 September), show that the UK is still behind its collection targets, putting the country at risk of missing out on its annual targets for the third consecutive year in a row.

The most recent figures show that in the second quarter of 2019, 121,776 tonnes of household WEEE was collected, bringing the total amount of WEEE collected in the first half of 2019 (January to June) to 244,180 tonnes, well below the 275,000 tonnes needed to be collected to be on course to reach annual targets – a target shortfall of just over eleven per cent.

Despite the fact that 2018 collection figures fell short of targets, the proposed overall UK WEEE collection target for 2019 is 550,132 tonnes, 12 per cent higher than the total amount of household WEEE collected and reported by producer compliance schemes (PCSs) in 2018.

The report’s figures indicate the UK is especially falling behind on small mixed WEEE, with only 41 per cent of the year’s required tonnage having been collected in the first two quarters. Within that figure, the shortfall is even greater for small household appliances, with only 33 per cent of the required six-month target having been collected.

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 now 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.

Mark Burrows-Smith, CEO at WEEE producer compliance scheme REPIC, commented: “From the latest figures, it’s clear that challenges remain in achieving the targets across all WEEE categories. This is especially evident in the small mixed WEEE categories that have received significant target uplifts for 2019. For example, while the target for small household appliances increased by 49 per cent for 2019, only 33 per cent of that target has arisen in the first six months.”

Phil Conran, Chair of the Approved Authorised Treatment Facility (AATF) Forum, which represents the UK’s WEEE reprocessors, added: “It seems clear that the UK is heading for another significant shortfall in WEEE collections this year that will once again be propped up by the compliance fee.”

Why are we so behind?

Burrows-Smith suggests there is not always a straightforward relationship between the amount of EEE placed on the market (POM) and WEEE disposal: “While reported EEE POM is ahead of the same quarter in 2018, this is likely to have been influenced by the implementation of open scope and some Brexit-related stock imports. With a whole range of factors impacting WEEE that arises for collection, the reality is that an item of EEE POM does not always result in an item of WEEE arising for collection.”

The EEE market is constantly changing. Alterations in technology design, such as products becoming lightweight for example, could have an impact on the tonnage of WEEE collected, as well as socio-economic factors such as Brexit, inflation, labour and material costs. All of these may impact where WEEE flows and how accessible it is to a PCS.

“Improved data remains key to progress,” affirmed Burrows-Smith. “Looking ahead, the WEEE Fund’s ‘route to waste’ research will help to uncover how variant product flows impact WEEE arising for collection. Funding for local authority kerbside initiatives and upcoming communications campaigns will also play an important part in encouraging consumers to deposit available household WEEE in the official system.”

In a similar vein, Phil Conran added: “Something must be done to switch the focus back to collection growth. The WEEE is out there, but either it is not being collected or more worryingly, it is being collected but not being properly treated. Hopefully Defra’s review of the regulations [in the Resources and Waste Strategy] will bring about the reform needed to achieve the intended environmental objectives rather than low-cost compliance.”

You can view the latest WEEE collection figures on the government website.

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