The chief executive of compliance scheme Repic has backed Defra’s decision to consider the impact of the coronavirus pandemic when calculating the compliance fee for 2020, amid some concerns that a lowered fee could discourage traditional collections.
Louise Grantham was speaking at the 2020 WEEE Conference, organised by letsrecycle.com and held on 30 September.
Ms Grantham was discussing the impact of Covid-19 on WEEE collections and providing attendees with an overview of the year so far.
She explained that meeting targets is likely to be very difficult this year as the lockdown restrictions severely hit collections at recycling centres, and said the WEEE system is fortunate to have the compliance scheme system in place.
“We have all have had to make changes in how we collect WEEE, and meeting the collection targets in 2020 is likely to be difficult. The setting for the 2020 target coincided with the start of the lockdown period and due to the uncertainty at the time we think Defra took a very pragmatic decision to base these on actual collection figures for 2019.
“We’re fortunate the WEEE system has the compliance fee scheme which provides an alternative mean of compliance. This year will be very challenging for producers, and everyone, and we welcome Defra’s commitment that it will absolutely take into account the impact Covid-19 has had on collections this year.”
“We’re fortunate the WEEE system has the compliance fee scheme which provides an alternative mean of compliance”
Ms Grantham added that despite the challenges the sector has also shown its “resilience” and said the regular discussions which were being held between government and industry to “discuss and identify” solutions were helpful.
Provisional Defra figures published in June for the second quarter of 2020 show that collections numbers were 53% down from the same period last year (see letsrecycle.com story).
Looking forward, she said that further lockdown restrictions could have an impact on collections, and the sector needs to figure out what the ‘new normal’ level of collections are.
Ms Grantham added: “We seem to be moving into another period of restrictions which will have an impact on our sector. Varying local restrictions, social distancing requirements, but we’ve also had people clearing out their houses more too. I think we’ll need to discuss what is the ‘new normal’ level of collections now.
“We’re pleased to see Material Focus has commissioned work to understand how Covid has impacted the sector and develop a forecasting tool which will hopefully assist with this. This needs to be done also while supporting Defra review the WEEE system and to help it introduce commitments outlined in the Resources and Waste Strategy.”
Ms Grantham was followed by Phil Conran, director of 360 Environmental. He explained that volumes at Approved Authorised Treatment Facilities have been down, and are still struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels.
He explained that while AATFs are grateful that they received some funding from Material Focus, there is some concern that any drastic changes to the compliance fee could discourage traditional collections.