Two projects have been fast-tracked for funding worth nearly £1 million as part of a payout of money raised last year through the WEEE Compliance Fee.
The largest project will be led by the Industry Council for Electronics Recycling (ICER) and will see more than 25,000 samples of plastic in WEEE tested for harmful pollutants, and will cost between £446,000-£556,000.
The second will cost around £416,000 and will be led by the WEEE Scheme Forum (WSF), which will involve a review of existing protocols ahead of the open scope regulations coming into force next year.
The two projects are the first to get a payout from the fund, which this year stands at around £8 million because producers of electronic goods failed to meet their targets to recycle old products in 2017.
The ICER project will see samples of plastic from a range of waste electricals tested for toxic substances, which are prohibited under regulations now, but widely used in the past.
This includes samples from displays, large and small domestic appliances, power tools, fridges and printed circuit boards, which will be scanned and tested for persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and specifically bromine content indicative of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs), a group of brominated flame retardants.
The findings of the research, which will be concluded by February 2019, will be presented to Defra and the Environment Agency and will explore where these chemicals are. The study will then assess options for separating out WEEE plastics found to contain POPs and identify sites where they can be safely destroyed.
Commenting on the funding, Claire Snow, director of ICER, explained that the work will help ensure the UK is compliant with regulations.
“This initiative, made possible by the Compliance Fee, enables industry and government to work together to benefit all stakeholders,” she said.
Ms Snow added: “The POPs Regulation sets maximum concentration levels for POPs in waste materials, including WEEE plastic. The ICER-led project will gather robust data on which to assess UK compliance and identify downstream solutions for contaminated material. By carrying out this work collectively, costs to the WEEE industry will be minimised.”
The WSF-led scheme will involve a review of existing protocols ahead of the open scope regulations coming into force next year.
The review of the existing protocols – the Mixed WEEE Protocol and the Large Domestic Appliances (LDA) Protocol – “will ensure they remain representative of the composition of these streams”.
The work will be run in two phases; the first is already underway and will run until later in the autumn which will result in a proposal for revised protocols. The second phase, which will run for six months in 2019, will seek to refine Phase I results. The project is estimated to cost around £413,000.
An external administrator, Katalyst Business Consulting, which is run by Graeme Milne, has been appointed to oversee the protocol review work.
Nigel Harvey, WSF chair, said that the current protocols could be out of date.
He explained: “The current protocols, by which the UK measures the proportions of different categories of WEEE that are collected and recycled, were established nearly a decade ago. Significant changes in the equipment sold in the UK have occurred and, as a consequence, this may have affected the composition of WEEE arising.”
And, Mr Harvey added: “The introduction of open scope from 2019 will have a profound effect on the WEEE regime, as additional products are brought within scope of the regulations. This review is therefore essential to ensure that producer responsibility costs are apportioned fairly as this change takes effect.”