1 September 2020 by James Langley

Coronavirus pandemic hits Q2 WEEE collection

Data published by the Environment Agency today (1 September) confirmed collection targets for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) were missed in the second quarter of 2020.

Failure to meet the targets would result in a compliance fee having to be paid by some compliance schemes on behalf of their producer members, though Defra confirmed in June it would consider the impact Covid-19 has had when setting a compliance fee methodology for 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story).

64,039 tonnes of household WEEE was collected by producer compliance schemes between April and June 2020

The figures show 64,112 tonnes of household WEEE was collected by producer compliance schemes between April and June 2020. This is broadly in line with the provisional figures published in early August (see letsrecycle.com story) and represents a 53% fall from the same period last year (see letsrecycle.com story).

When combined with the Q1 2020 data, a total of 197,753 tonnes of household WEEE has been collected this year. This represents 36.8% of the initial collection target of 537,976 tonnes, set by Defra in early March (see letsrecycle.com story).

The table below shows a full breakdown for each category of WEEE. Figures have been rounded to the nearest whole number so the columns may not add up exactly.

Table showing Q2 WEEE collection data

HWRCs

Defra told letsrecycle.com the impact of the coronavirus pandemic meant access to household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs) was restricted in many parts of the country earlier this year. As a large amount of WEEE is collected through HWRCs, their closure meant collection volumes were lower than normal.

Collection volumes are beginning to increase as a result of recycling centres reopening, Defra said.

A Defra spokesperson told letsrecycle.com: “We are committed to ensuring that we go further and faster to reduce, reuse and recycle more of our resources, and while the coronavirus pandemic has presented a number of challenges it’s important that local authorities recycle appropriately.

“We published guidance earlier this year to help local authorities safely re-open their recycling centres and have now made it easier for people to visit these sites.”

Defra believes the reopening of HWRCs will boost the figures

Lockdown

The disappointing figures were not unexpected given the conditions necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, with many believing lockdown restrictions would have had a significant impact (see letsrecycle.com story).

“The figures actually represent a remarkable effort”

Robbie Staniforth, Ecosurety

Robbie Staniforth is head of policy at compliance scheme Ecosurety. He told letsrecycle.com: “As expected, collections are significantly down due to the lockdown restrictions. The data reflects the difficult time experienced by reprocessors and local authorities.

“However, the figures actually represent a remarkable effort on their part for ensuring that any material continues to flow through our recycling system.

“While the outlook for quarter three is much better, these figures all but confirm the need for a compliance fee this year. We look on with interest to see the proposals put forward by stakeholders.”

Significant impact

Louise Grantham is chief executive of compliance scheme REPIC. She told letsrecycle.com: “There is little change between the published and provisional quarter two household WEEE collections data. The lockdown period had a significant impact on WEEE collections, with total household WEEE collections in the quarter being 48% of those reported in Q1 2020 and 52% of those in the same period in 2019. Although collections through most routes reduced, the most significant reduction was in collections from designated collection facilities.”

She added: “There has undoubtedly been some catch up in WEEE collections following the re-opening of most collection sites. However, the WEEE collections data for Q3 2020 will provide us with a better indication of the impact Covid-19 will have on achieving the 2020 collection targets.”

Targets

Targets for the collection of WEEE have been missed in three consecutive years (see letsrecycle.com story).

If compliance schemes and obligated businesses have insufficient recycling evidence to meet their WEEE collection targets for the year, they must usually pay a compliance fee. However, the coronavirus pandemic has led to uncertainty. In June Defra confirmed it would consider the impact Covid-19 has had when setting a compliance fee methodology for 2020.

Collection of WEEE in the first quarter of 2020 appeared broadly on track to meet initial targets, with 133,641 tonnes of household WEEE collected between January and March 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story). Data from the first quarter of 2020 covers the period between January and March, and so only accounted for about one week of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.


Conference

WEEE will be on the agenda at the Virtual WEEE Conference, to be held on 30 September. More information can be found here.

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