Defra considers free bulky WEEE collections

Defra is considering making producers fund the free collection of bulky waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) from the kerbside, as part of its review of WEEE regulations.

Bulky waste collections could be free for residents with local authorities refunded by producers (picture: Shutterstock)

The idea is being researched by consultancy Anthesis, which is working with Defra on the review and has published a document to stakeholders on the research it is undertaking to underline several proposals.

Alongside the funding of bulky waste, this also includes introducing new obligations on online marketplaces and strengthening internet sellers’ obligations and reuse.

Anthesis said in the document that on behalf on Defra, it will be engaging with multiple stakeholders across the WEEE supply chain to gather data and stakeholder views on proposed options to change obligations.

Defra said in January that it was aiming to publish the first consultation on its review of the system this year, with a provisional target of June set (see story).

The changes will then come into force as legislation in 2025/26.

Bulky waste

In the document, Anthesis explained that for WEEE items that are too large to collect from the kerbside, local authorities should continue to collect via their bulky waste services.

Defra also proposes that retailers offer free bulky waste collections for WEEE. Producers will finance both collection services to ensure they are free to residents.

Distributors that do not provide take-back services could provide compensation to local authorities as well as producers.

“A modelled approach to compensation provided to local authorities” would be one potential payment  mechanism, Anthesis said, rather than a “system of reimbursement of actual costs”.

Online marketplaces

Compliance of online marketers with WEEE regulation has always been a discussion point in the sector.

Under WEEE regulations, producers and distributors of electrical goods are required to finance the collection and treatment of their products when they come to the end of their lives.

It is thought some online retailers, particularly those based outside Europe, may place their goods on the market without registering with a WEEE compliance scheme in the UK.

Anthesis explained in the document that to counter this, a new category of producer could be created for online marketplaces and fulfilment houses. They would be required to meet producer obligations laid down in revised regulations on behalf of their overseas sellers.

Internet sellers

At present, Anthesis explained that the UK has one of the lowest collection rates from retailers in Europe.

Defra research “further indicates that the UK is currently the only country in Europe that provides an alternative to retailers and internet sellers from providing take-back facilities themselves”.

There is evidence that mandating retailers to do physical take back can have benefits in terms of increasing collections, given their proximity to householders, particularly where that is supported by effective communication to consumers.

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