HWRC booking systems ‘inhibiting’ WEEE collections

Compliance experts have expressed concerns about the impact of booking systems at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) on the collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

Producer compliance schemes collected 125,8668 tonnes of household WEEE between July and September 2021

However, while some are cautious given a “plateau” in collection rates, others have welcomed “extremely positive data” which suggests the UK could meet targets for 2021.

Data covering the collection of household WEEE by producer compliance schemes and their members was published by the Environment Agency yesterday (1 December).

Table shows WEEE collected in Q3 2021 (click to enlarge). Figures have been rounded to the nearest whole number, so may not add up exactly

The figures show 125,8668 tonnes of household WEEE was collected by producer compliance schemes between July and September 2021. This represents a slight fall from the same period last year, when 133,428 tonnes was collected (see letsrecycle.com story).

And, this is 1.5% less than producer compliance schemes collected in the second quarter of the year, which saw them take in 127,817 tonnes.

Phil Conran is chair of the AATF forum, an informal body representing the interests of the UK WEEE treatment sector. He told letsrecycle.com: “There is a concern amongst members that continuing use of booking systems is still inhibiting HWRC collections for small mixed WEEE in particular and it is interesting that there appears to be a falling trend in distributor take-back.

“Worryingly, it seems we have plateaued on WEEE collections.”

WEEE collection by type during the past two years (picture: Phil Conran)

‘Promising’

By contrast, Louise Grantham, chief executive of REPIC, said the data was “promising.” “While collections are typically lower in the last quarter of the year, the data shows promising progress to reaching the target. It currently appears that the target could be met in some categories, and just marginally missed in others.”

Louise Grantham is chief executive of compliance scheme REPIC

She added: “Total EEE placed on the market in Q3 2021 is broadly equivalent to that of Q2 2021 – 385,646 tonnes versus 385,885 tonnes.

“However, it has fallen by 8% when compared to Q3 2020, when 418,036 tonnes was placed on the market.”

Mrs Grantham called for there to be further communication to the public about mandatory in-store take-back of WEEE.

Since 1 January 2021, large retailers who have a turnover for sales of electronic equipment in excess of £100,000 have been required to take back WEEE instore (see letsrecycle.com story).

“Further communication around the mandatory in-store take-back of WEEE and changing the habits of those that store and hoard unwanted smaller household electricals over recycling remains a priority,” she said.

Mandated retailer take-back

Vikkie Fitzgerald, head of WEEE at compliance scheme Clarity Environmental, also expressed concerns about the amount of waste electricals collected by retailers.

Vikkie Fitzgerald is head of WEEE at Clarity Environmental

Ms Fitzgerald told letsrecycle.com: “Comparing 2021 with the previous year is difficult given the adverse impact of lockdown on WEEE tonnage in 2020.

“However, it seems that the mandated retailer take-back has had little impact on tonnage reported through 2021.

“It will be interesting to see if this changes in the final quarter of this year, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday potentially boosting take-back and the inevitable preparation of families for new electrical items gifted over the holidays.”

Photovoltaic panels

Overall, Ms Fitzgerald said the data looked “extremely positive” for meeting targets, “with many categories reporting tonnage beyond the figures we would hope to see with only one quarter remaining”.

However, she expressed fears about the collection of photovoltaic panels. “The main surprise from the data released is that Category 14 has only 180 tonnes of the 274 tonnes needed to meet the target.

“Given the revised 2021 protocol, I would have expected this figure to be much closer to 75% of the target.”

Compliance fee

Nigel Harvey, chief executive of compliance scheme Recolight, told letsrecycle.com the data “confirmed” that a compliance fee would be needed for 2021, though he said a different approach should be taken to in 2020.

Nigel Harvey is chief executive of producer compliance scheme Recolight

The fee is an alternative mechanism used by compliance schemes and obligated business if they have insufficient recycling evidence to meet their WEEE collection targets for the year. It generated £963,000 in 2020 to support the activities of Material Focus, the not-for-profit organisation formerly known as the WEEE Fund.

Mr Harvey said: “The Q3 data show a mix of streams above and below target. That gives a very useful indicator for the 2021 WEEE compliance fee methodology.

“The data confirmed that a compliance fee is needed this year. But the data also indicates that the more radical Covid-driven approach taken in the 2020 compliance fee, when compliance fees were redistributed amongst producer compliance schemes so as to reduce targets, should not be adopted in 2021.”

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