Lockdown restrictions are expected to have a significant impact on the tonnages of waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) collected in the second quarter of 2020, senior figures in the sector warn.
Industry experts believe WEEE collections fell by nearly 80% in April alone. Partly because of this, many approved authorised treatment facilities (AATFs) have closed temporarily and furloughed staff until volumes return.
This has led to fears within the industry collection targets will not be met for 2020.
Louise Grantham is chief executive of WEEE producer compliance scheme REPIC. She told letsrecycle.com: “Achievement of the 2020 UK WEEE collection targets currently appears unlikely, a position that is mirrored across other WEEE systems in Europe.
“We are fortunate the WEEE regime provides the option of a compliance fee as a way for producer compliance schemes to comply in the event there is insufficient WEEE available for collection.”
And Ms Grantham highlighted reassurances from Defra. She said: “The year will be financially challenging for all organisations in the WEEE sector, including producers, and we welcome Defra’s recognition of this situation in their paper announcing the targets, where they confirm they will ‘absolutely take account of the actual impacts that Covid-19 has had on collections during the year’ when setting a compliance fee methodology for 2020.”
Prior to the lockdown in March Defra set the collection of 537,976 tonnes of WEEE as a target for the whole of 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story).
“We’re expecting to see a huge hit”
Phil Conran is chair of the AATF Forum, an informal body that represents the interests of the UK WEEE treatment sector. He told letsrecycle.com that a “significant slow-down” was anticipated in the sector this quarter.
“With the figures due in early September we’re expecting to see a huge hit,” he said.
Mr Conran also added that with sources of domestic and commercial WEEE being shut off to AATFs there could be implications for the level of the compliance fee for 2020.
The compliance fee is used by compliance schemes and obligated business if they have insufficient recycling evidence to meet their collection targets.
“The year will be financially challenging for all organisations in the WEEE sector”
Nearly 122,000 tonnes of WEEE was collected during the second quarter of 2019, but it is believed the figure for the same period this year will be considerably lower (see letsrecycle.com story).
However, with lockdown only introduced in mid-March and the data for the first quarter of the year registered to the end of that month, the figures from that period could be as strong as those for packaging.
In late April, a series of interest-free loans were made available to the WEEE sector in a bid to boost its fortunes (see letsrecycle.com story).
The WEEE Support Grants and Loans Package had a value of more than £5 million and was made available by Material Change, an organisation formerly known as the WEEE Fund set up by the Joint Trade Association to administer how money collected through the WEEE compliance fee mechanism is spent.
Loans totalling £5 million were available to electrical waste treatment facilities and grants totalling £600,000 to charity reuse organisations.
The WEEE Scheme Forum was among the organisations consulted during the conception of the loans. Its chair, Nigel Harvey, said: “When the coronavirus restrictions are lifted the WEEE system will need a dynamic and competitive WEEE recycling market, with the capacity to cope with any post-crisis spike.
“When the coronavirus restrictions are lifted the WEEE system will need a dynamic and competitive WEEE recycling market”
“The loans should help to minimise the risk of WEEE recycling business closures, and a rapid start-up of operations when this is required.”
However, fears persist that some businesses have been unable to apply for the loans due to their company structures, leading to the scheme having a relatively low take-up so far.
It is hoped the reopening of most household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) across England (see letsrecycle.com story) may help to boost the collection of WEEE a little, but doubts remain in industry as to how much impact this could have.
Householders are being encouraged by the Material Change campaign to keep hold of their WEEE until they can dispose of it safely through the correct channels.