5 October 2020 by James Langley

WEEE Conference discusses producer take-back

Awareness and communication are key to the introduction of a successful instore take-back scheme, according to the compliance and recycling operations manager at Dixons Carphone.

Matt Manning was speaking at the virtual WEEE Conference 2020 on 30 September, which was organised by letsrecycle.com.

Matt Manning is compliance and recycling operations manager at Dixons Carphone

Electrical retail giant Dixons Carphone has met requirements for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) through its own instore take-back service since 2007 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Mr Manning told the conference: “Awareness and communication is, I’d say, the most important factor here that you could have. There could be a million collection points dotted around the UK, but if people don’t know where they are or the fact that they can recycle their old tech they won’t use them.”

During the Christmas period last year Dixons Carphone put a leaflet in with the new equipment people purchased, Mr Manning said, letting them know they could take their old electronics back instore and recycle it there.

Take-back

Large retailers who have a turnover for sales of electronic equipment in excess of £100,000 will be required to take back WEEE instore from 2021 (see letsrecycle.com story). Online retailers have been given a derogation for a further year.

Large retailers will be required to take back WEEE instore from 2021

Retailers will be obliged to take back an item when a consumer buys a new similar item. Retailers can also reduce the number of items which would be taken back in-store through offering collection schemes, such as for large domestic appliances when delivering new products.

Mr Manning said that once new obligations came into effect in January there could be 5,000 additional collection points across the UK. He noted collection figures for small mixed WEEE may have been lower in the past because the UK has far fewer household waste recycling centres than countries such as Germany and those in Scandinavia.

Mr Manning also pointed to Ireland, where it has long been mandatory for retailers to take back old electrical equipment free of charge when a customer buys new goods. Mr Manning noted Ireland had frequently met and exceeded WEEE collection targets.

Campaigns

Another who spoke at the conference on the importance of good communication was Scott Butler, the chief executive of Material Focus.

Scott Butler is the chief executive of Material Focus

Formerly known as the WEEE Fund, Material Focus launched a campaign to encourage WEEE recycling in May (see letsrecycle.com story). The Recycle Your Electricals campaign aims to prevent discarded electrical items from being fly-tipped or going to landfill.

Mr Butler told the conference the campaign had achieved a media coverage reach of 104 million people.

He said this had been aided by celebrity endorsements from the likes of former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq and an appearance on the Daily Mail’s ‘sidebar of shame’ following a collaboration with Caprice Bourret, an American businesswoman, model, actress, and television personality.

Mr Butler said the campaign had focused on social media and had achieved particular success on Instagram.

Implications

Also speaking at the conference was Matt Luntley, commercial account manager the UK’s largest packaging waste compliance scheme, Valpak.

Mr Luntley explained the implications of new regulations to come into force from the new year once the current iteration of the distributor take-back scheme (DTS) ends. There are no official plans to delay the scheme because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Luntley said.

He confirmed online retailers with physical showrooms would also be required to take back WEEE in-store.

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