Producer compliance schemes (PCSs) have cautioned against drawing conclusions from data published this month which point to a drop in collections of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).
On Friday (June 1), the Environment Agency released statistics for the first quarter of 2018 (Q1), which showed that the amount of WEEE collected by compliance schemes from ‘household’ sources, fell by up to 13% from the same period in 2017, to 120,707 tonnes.
This comes after Defra confirmed that the overall collection target for WEEE in 2018 would be 537,065 tonnes, a 16% reduction from the year before. When viewed against the Q1 collection rate, the data suggests that PCSs have collected 23% of the WEEE needed to meet the target during the first quarter of the year.
The figures also suggest that each individual category either saw a reduction in the amount collected or stayed relatively static compared to 2017, with the exception of Monitoring and Control Instruments, which saw a 2 tonne increase to 48 tonnes.
Following the release of the Q1 collection data, Mark Burrows-Smith, chief executive of REPIC, pointed to the amount of EEE [Electrical and Electronic Equipment] placed on the market in comparison to the overall amount of WEEE collected.
In the first quarter of this year, a total of 291,800 tonnes of EEE was placed onto the market, which means that PCSs collected around 40% of that in equivalent WEEE. In 2017, 313,952 tonnes of new products were placed on the market, which meant last year PCSs collected 43% of what was placed on the market in the same period.
Mr Burrows-Smith explained that a number of factors can influence the amount of WEEE collected.
“It is clear that, in overall terms, both EEE POM [placed on the market] and WEEE collected is lower relative to the same quarter last year, although WEEE collected is broadly in line with Q4 of 2017,” he explained.
“We know that there are a number of factors that influence the amount of WEEE collected through the PCS network, and understanding the relative importance of these using figures from one quarter alone is difficult. A more informed analysis of target achievement will be possible once more data is available, later on in the year.”
Mr Burrows-Smith went on to say that REPIC will be sharing the findings of research on how to improve the forecasting and modelling the amount of WEEE generated at the WEEE Conference, organised by letsrecycle.com in London tomorrow.
“These suggestions are based on the preliminary findings from an independent study by Lancaster University, commissioned by REPIC in 2017 to look at the impact of wider socio-economic factors on WEEE generation,” he concluded.
Caution over conclusions from the Q1 figures was echoed by others in the industry, including John Redmayne, managing director of European Recycling Platform (ERP), who said that while it may be “worrying” that the amount of WEEE collected across the board is falling, it is difficult to suggest how this could correspond to progress towards the overall target.
“It is always very difficult to give anything clear and definitive with regards to the yearly target with just Q1 data,” Mr Redmayne said.
“The declines in collection appear to be continuing, and most streams of WEEE were down by worrying amounts, which can be put down to many reasons.
“Also, you would hope, by dividing the target into four, that the target would be around 25%, which it isn’t. However, that could change throughout the year as well, so there are no major alarm bells at the moment.”
Robbie Staniforth, policy manager at PCS Ecosurety, explained that while Q1 data is always slightly lower, it now looks a good move by Defra to lower the collection targets, as they did earlier in the year.
“The first thing to mention is that Q1 statistics are always lower, so people need to exercise caution when looking at them,” he explained.
“I do think the revised targets introduced by Defra, which were unpopular, will show to be correct though, as WEEE is not arising in the same way as it was before, why? I don’t exactly know.
“This proves that they may have actually been right, as if targets were set higher it would just be impossible.”