Responses to yesterday’s announcement by business minister Matthew Hancock that the UK has met its WEEE collection target in 2014 have been mixed, with some questioning the financial benefits of new WEEE regulations.
Mr Hancock welcomed the news yesterday (February 25) that the overall target to collect 490,000 tonnes of WEEE in 2014 was met, with 491,007 tonnes having been collected across the year (see letsrecycle.com story).
The minister also welcomed estimates that changes to the regulations, which came into effect in January 2014, had saved producers of electronic goods around £18 million in the cost of compliance with the regulations.
The new regulations replace a system of ‘evidence trading’ between schemes, instead giving them each an individual target based on the volume of new products their members have placed onto the market. Schemes that are unable to meet their target can instead opt to pay a ‘compliance fee’ rather than purchasing WEEE from other compliance schemes at a potentially inflated cost.
The announcement yesterday was welcomed by the chief executive of one of the UK’s largest producer-led compliance schemes REPIC.
REPIC chief executive Philip Morton, said: “It is great news for everyone that the WEEE system has benefited from the new regulations and as a direct result the UK has seen a rise in collection tonnage compared to last year. There is now greater transparency; for the first time PCSs know where the WEEE they pay to recycle is treated and the AATFs know who their true customers are.
“Individual stream targets can only ever be best estimates , the important thing is that all WEEE in all categories that arose across the UK and was made available was dealt with. The overall UK target has been exceeded and the new Regulations mean any collector of WEEE can have their WEEE dealt with at no cost.”
Compliance scheme Valpak also welcomed the news that tonnages of WEEE collected throughout 2014 grew compared to the preceding 12 months.
A spokesman for the company said: “It is very encouraging to see that national collections have increased since 2013 and exceeded targets at a lower total cost to business (although there are significant variations between streams).
“We are aware that some of the increase is likely to be due to a change in definition of some previously declared business to business equipment, which can now be classified as business to consumer (dual use). Some more detailed work needs to be done to understand this effect, but overall it is a positive first year of operation of the new regulations.”
|2013 Collections (tonnes)||2014 Collection target (tonnes)||2014 collections* (tonnes)|
|Large domestic appliances||154,667||176,018||167,193|
|Small mixed WEEE||118,215||126,486||125,442|
|TVs and Monitors||100,255||77,187||84,164|
|Fridges and freezers||100,739||109,469||112,274|
*figures from the WEEE Settlement Centre (subject to quality assurance checking by the environment agencies)
However, Paul Van Danzig, sales director at compliance scheme Electrolink, has questioned how the government has reached its figure of £18 million in savings and claimed that some of the cost of recycling is no longer being borne by electronics producers, as intended under the regulations.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com, Mr Van Danzig said: “Further analysis of the data clearly shows that although the UK met its overall collection target, schemes did not meet their individual collection targets. Where targets were exceeded it is highly unlikely that producers financed the recycling of surplus material that were collected. This means that the local authority or the tax payer or someone other than the producer has been left with the cost of financing producer responsibility legislation.”
And, despite the numbers reflecting good news for producers, some within the reprocessing sector have also questioned whether the new regulations have improved trading conditions across the board.
Justin Greenaway, commercial manager at Kent-based WEEE treatment firm SWEEEP Kuusakoski claimed that the new regulations had in fact placed an increased burden on the reprocessing sector.
He said: “£18 Million of saving for producers is good news for producers but at what cost has this been achieved? During 2014 multiple WEEE recyclers have either pulled out of the sector or gone bust. The UK is dangerously close to having a lack of recycling capacity for WEEE. From a recycler’s perspective the red tape challenge has failed completely to reduce administration. In fact we are now experiencing 15 times the amount of administration compared to before the red tape challenge.”