Defra hits back after WEEE reforms dubbed ‘toaster tax’

Defra has defended its reforms to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations in light of criticism in the national media referring to the reforms as a ‘toaster tax’. 

DEFRA estimate that 155,000 tonnes of smaller household electricals are “wrongly” thrown in the bin every year

On 28 December 2023, the government consulted on its long-awaited reforms to the WEEE sector, which included proposals to mandate large retailers collect for electrical items in-store, free of charge, without the need to buy a replacement product (see letsrecycle.com story).

The consultation’s impact assessment estimated the yearly net cost for business of the proposals at £130.8 million.

The policies however have come in for criticism this week. On 25 February, the Daily Mail released an article on the plans, referring to them as the “£1 billion toaster tax”. In the article, retailers argued that the policies would cost them hundreds of millions a year.

In its response to article, Defra said that the collections “would be financed by producers of electrical items, not the taxpayer”.


Defra explained in its response that an estimated 155,000 tonnes of smaller household electricals such as cables, toasters, kettles and power tools are wrongly thrown in the bin each year.

“The proposals will mean consumers will be able to recycle their goods during their weekly shop or without even leaving the house,” the statement added.

Recycling minister Robbie Moore said: “Every year millions of household electricals across the UK end up in the bin rather than being correctly recycled or reused. This is a sheer waste of our natural resources and has to stop.

“We all have a drawer of old tech somewhere that we don’t know what to do with and our proposals will ensure these gadgets are easy to dispose of without the need for a trip to your local tip. Our plans will also drive the move to a more circular economy and create new jobs by making all recycling simpler.”

DEFRA will ‘work closely’ with manufacturers, major retailers and enterprises throughout the consultation period

Up for debate

In the Daily Mail article, Conservative MP David Jones stated that the plans to mandate retailers to collect items is “an extraordinary imposition on businesses”.

Defra said that it will “work closely” with manufacturers, major retailers and small and medium enterprises throughout the consultation period “to ensure the most efficient and accessible options become a reality”.


The WEEE Regulations will be discussed in detail at letsrecycle.com‘s upcoming WEEE Conference on 21 March.

Tickets for this long-running conference are sure to sell out, so be sure to secure your ticket here.

The Agenda can be seen here.

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