The chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, has urged the WEEE sector to work together to make domestic recycling of waste electricals viable.
Speaking at the WEEE Conference yesterday, organised by letsrecycle.com, Mr Dunne, who is Conservative MP for Ludlow, said the UK was a “significant exporter” of electrical waste but problems in finding markets for material could arise. He said domestic infrastructure is needed.
“Exportation is often to countries with less advanced recycling infrastructure than we have… and I think this is going to become an increasing problem as we leave the EU,” Mr Dunne explained.
He added: “We may lose some of the ability to export to facilities within the EU. Also, other nations, in particular in Asia, have started to become more aware of environmental risk.
“This is going to become a problem that we’re going to have to adapt to and develop our own infrastructure to deal with more recycling of electronics within the UK. And the problem that gives rise to immediately is the scale of the market in the UK, although we’re a large economy, are still only producing a relatively small amount of material that makes recycling plant viable.
“That’s not a problem that I have easy answers to. And it’s going to be down to industry collaboration, working together to trying to ensure that both on the collection side and on the disposal side, we’re dealing with units which are large enough to be able to make economic sense.”
The EAC launched an inquiry into the WEEE sector in the spring and held its evidence sessions in the summer. The evidence is currently being considered by the committee.
“Exportation is often to countries with less advanced recycling infrastructure than we have…and I think this is going to become an increasing problem”
Mr Dunne said the waste electricals sector is a challenge because of some of the “low quality recycling” being done, “relying heavily on shredding and crushing”, which Mr Dunne says could damage some valuable materials.
He specifically mentioned a “fantastic” Veolia-owned facility in his constituency, Ludlow, which he says is one of the only in the UK which uses robotics for the micro recycling of TV screens and monitors for computers.
“I am under the impression the facility processes around 18% of screens in the UK. This just shows that you need to make it viable.
“You need to have a very significant market share in any of these individual waste stream that requires the development of the industry in a way that has some impact on competition, i.e. collaboration rather than competition in many respects may be the answer,” Mr Dunne added.
He concluded by saying he is pressing government to invest more in driving waste further up the hierarchy, to help “reduce the requirement for more new raw materials”.