Compliance schemes say there is “work to be done” but remain positive about meeting targets for the collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in 2021.
Data on the volume of household WEEE collected for recycling from January to March 2021 was published by the Environment Agency yesterday (1 June).
Targets for the collection of WEEE have been missed in four consecutive years (see letsrecycle.com story).
For 2021, the Agency set compliance schemes the target of collecting 503,629 tonnes of household WEEE, an increase of around 9% from the 460,134 tonnes collected and reported by compliance schemes in 2020.
The ability of consumers and producer compliance schemes to dispose of and collect WEEE was severely limited during 2020 by restrictions on household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) and travel because of Covid-19. For this reason, collections data from 2020 was not used in the target setting process for 2021 (see letsrecycle.com story).
The first quarter data offers the first glimpse of how schemes are progressing towards targets in comparison to previous years.
Progress towards 2021 targets looks encouraging, with 23.8% of the overall target achieved in the first quarter. However, the collection rate will have to increase if they are to be met for all categories, as can be seen in the table below.
The collection of large household appliances and display equipment has proved particularly successful, at 47,535 and 9,849 tonnes respectively.
However, the collection of small household appliances and gas discharge lamps will have to improve, with 7,433 and 861 tonnes collected so far. These are just 21.5% and 20.8% of the respective target tonnages for 2021.
Vikkie Fitzgerald, head of WEEE at compliance scheme Clarity Environmental, told letsrecycle.com: “In comparison to the data from the same period in 2020, it is clear there is much work to be done to meet targets this year, especially amongst the usual suspects – small mixed WEEE, cooling and lamps.
“But considering that the UK lockdown forced all non-essential retail to close throughout Q1, overall, the data is pleasantly surprising, with particularly strong performances from display and LDA, as well as PV panels.
“With retailers open for business, and communications campaigns able to do what they were designed to do, there is certainly potential for a far more positive period in Q2.”
Louise Grantham, chief executive of compliance scheme REPIC, said she had feared the data would be “worse” because of the effects of the lockdown on collections in January and February. She noted collections had recovered “somewhat” in March.
She told letsrecycle.com: “Collections for the first quarter of 2021 are 11% lower than the same period in 2020, largely due to the impact the national lockdowns had on local authority HWRC collections. In addition, the introduction of mandatory in-store takeback of small WEEE was delayed due to most shops being closed.
“Despite this, overall, collections were 24% of the total annual household WEEE collection target, with display equipment collections (26%) being ahead of the pro-rata target.
“Small mixed WEEE and lamp collections were most significantly affected, at 21% of the annual target.
“The majority of the WEEE (58%) was collected through local authority HWRCs, which is consistent with last year, with retail take back remaining the predominant source of large household appliance collections.”
Mrs Grantham said it was still too early to assess the pandemic’s impact on collections in 2021. She said there would be a “much clearer picture” when the data for the second quarter of the year became available.
Nigel Harvey, CEO of lighting industry compliance scheme Recolight, also noted small mixed WEEE and lamps as potentially problematic categories.
He told letsrecycle.com: “The problem streams in the 2021 Q1 data are small mixed WEEE and lamps. Both are underperforming against target. And the same was true in 2020 – both were the poorest performers when compared to 2020 targets. It is perhaps no coincidence that both are also the streams that are easiest to put in residual waste.
“It will undoubtedly be challenging to increase collection rates, but hopefully the increased emphasis on communications from Material Focus will help.”
Meanwhile, the Joint Trade Association (JTA) said yesterday an additional £963,000 generated using the WEEE regulations compliance fee in 2020 will go to supporting the activities of Material Focus.
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.
Formerly known as the WEEE Fund, Material Focus is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the compliance fee. The activities the fund will support include research, projects to make it easier to recycle including kerbside and reuse schemes, and the Recycle Your Electricals campaign.
Susanne Baker, chair of the JTA and associate director of climate, environment and sustainability at techUK, said: “Our focus will continue to be on spending the fund carefully on projects that can deliver improvements to the system and increase levels of recycling.”
In February ministers approved the WEEE compliance fee proposal submitted by the JTA for 2020, the third year running it was chosen (see letsrecycle.com story).