WEEE producer compliance schemes have expressed concern over the latest figures for the collection of waste electricals from households, which suggest that 2017 targets may be missed.
Provisional data, which was published on the Environment Agency’s website earlier this month, suggests that a total of 133,000 tonnes of household WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) was collected for recycling in the months July to September 2017 from sources including local authority civic amenity sites.
This continues a trend seen in the first two quarters of the year with the total tonnage of material collected below that recorded during the same period in 2016 – with around 150,000 tonnes collected during that time.
Collection targets set for 2017 by Defra fixed a goal to collect 622,033 tonnes of WEEE – based on trends in the tonnages of WEEE collected over the last three years. This was an increase of around 14.3% compared to the 2016 target – requiring schemes to collect around 40,000 tonnes more material than the previous year.
This equated to a required quarterly collection rate of close to 155,000 tonnes of material per quarter, but to date, collections have fallen short of this projected level and the shortfall now looks unlikely to be met in the final quarter of the year.
Failing to meet the targets could mean that some schemes are required to pay a ‘compliance fee’ in order to meet their obligations at the end of the year.
In response to the latest figures, compliance schemes have called for more detailed analysis of data on the volume of electrical goods being placed onto the market, in order to inform future target levels for WEEE collections.
According to Mark Burrows-Smith, chief executive of Repic, whose members include many of the largest electronics producers supplying the UK market, the drop in the WEEE collection rate from 2016 to 2017 is likely to have been caused in part by falling sales of electrical goods.
He said: “The quarter three data shows that for the vast majority of streams, WEEE arisings in the UK are behind expectation. It is unlikely at this stage of the year that the UK will reach all of the targets set, despite schemes collecting all the available WEEE.
“The industry is experiencing a period where less WEEE is entering the system, due in part to the flat, and in some categories, falling sales of EEE which has a direct impact on consumer recycling behaviour. At the same time, we have a mix of commodity price effects, with higher scrap prices resulting in fewer large household appliances making their way into the system, and lower plastic prices impacting other waste goods.”
Repic has this month commissioned a research project, to be carried out by the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business at Lancaster University, looking in detail at trends in the sale of electronic goods and the amount of WEEE generated. This will be used with a view to using the findings to propose “improvements” to WEEE forecasting, the compliance scheme has said.
David Adams, managing director of the compliance scheme Clarity Environmental has similarly expressed concern at the data.
He suggested that light-weighting of products may also have contributed to a drop in the tonnage of material collected and called for more research to be carried out ahead of the setting of future targets.
Commenting on the data Mr Adams said: “With WEEE collections down compared to the same period last year, the Q3 data is once again causing concern around the collection targets set for compliance schemes. We traditionally see an increase in quarters three and four of the compliance year, but with the light-weighting of many goods we have been seeing an ongoing fall in the volume of collections for some WEEE categories, and there are calls for the government to use more ‘evidence-based research’ when setting future targets.
“We are committed to achieving the targets set to our WEEE compliance scheme. Our membership grows alongside our network of AATFs as part of the Recycle with Clarity initiative, which gives us the ability to handle varied obligations.”