Defra ignores 2020 in setting 2021 WEEE targets

Defra has proposed setting the overall collection target for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in 2021 at 503,629 tonnes.

This represents a slight increase on 2019, which saw compliance schemes collect a total of 502,683 tonnes (see story).

The ability of consumers and producer compliance schemes to dispose of and collect WEEE was severely limited during 2020 by restrictions on household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) and travel because of Covid-19. For this reason, collections data from 2020 was not used in the target setting process for 2021.

Targets for the collection of WEEE since 2019. Click to enlarge

A Defra spokesperson told “The overall collection target for 2021 is 503,629 tonnes, representing a small overall increase compared to 2019 collections.

“Given the significant drop in collections experienced in the first quarter of 2021 as a result of continued Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, we believe this represents a challenging set of targets for producer compliance schemes to achieve.”

The proposed UK household WEEE collection target for 2021 is 6,145 tonnes more than the 2020 target. Defra says it considered responses from industry to a draft paper circulated on 1 March 2021 in setting this year’s targets.


Defra says the target for display equipment is lower than 2019 collections because of a long-term trend of waste display equipment getting lighter. The final target has been lowered to the midpoint between the 2020 target and 2020 collections, giving a goal of 37,580 tonnes.

The overall collection target for WEEE in 2021 has been set at 503,629 tonnes

Defra’s five-year trend analysis for gas discharge lamps and LED light sources resulted in a target of 5,850 tonnes. This was considered too high and therefore subsequently revised downwards to 4,145 tonnes. The decision not to follow the trendline reflects the fact that, Defra says, in the long term, lamp collections are declining as the move from fluorescent to LED lamps gathers “considerable pace”.

It is difficult to set a target for PV panels due to the small number being currently collected, limited data on WEEE arising in this category, and the long lifetime of products placed on the market, Defra says. For these reasons the 2021 target has been set at 274 tonnes.

Another challenging year

Vikkie Fitzgerald, head of WEEE at environmental consultancy Clarity Environmental, believes it will be another challenging year for the industry with the pandemic not yet over.

“Without doubt, it is going to be another challenging year for the industry”

Vikkie Fitzgerald, Clarity Environmental

She told “Defra has taken into account the impact of the global pandemic and has chosen not to include any 2020 collection information in their trend forecasting work. But it is not clear that any Covid adjustment has been made, considering the continued lockdown in much of the UK throughout the first quarter of this year.

“Without doubt, it is going to be another challenging year for the industry. Given that most electronic retailers remain physically shut, we do not yet know if there are any positive effects of opening up retailers as takeback points.

“It was hoped that the planned communications campaigns would support another boom for the industry, but with ongoing lockdown the messaging has had to be hastily changed. With non-essential retail due to reopen on the 12 April, we hope that all players can leap into action to repair some of the damage done in Q1 of this year.”


Nigel Harvey, CEO of lighting industry compliance scheme Recolight and chair of the WEEE Scheme Forum trade association, told it was difficult to predict whether the targets were achievable.

Nigel Harvey is chief executive of producer compliance scheme Recolight

“WEEE target setting is always challenging, but it is particularly difficult this year, with the impact of the 2021 lockdown on collections a big unknown,” he said. “The ‘Goldilocks’ WEEE target is one that is just a little too high to be achievable. That means all WEEE collected is needed to meet targets, but without generating excessive compliance fee payments.”

He added: “We are pleased that the 2021 category 13 lamp target was reduced to 4,145 tonnes after consultation. And although that is 9% lower than 2019 collections, the gradual decline in lamp waste arising means it is unlikely to be achieved. So, for lamps, the target is probably about right.”

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