Material Focus explores kerbside WEEE collections

Material Focus is carrying out research into local authority kerbside collections for small mixed waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

Formerly known as the WEEE Fund, Material Focus is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the WEEE compliance fee. A survey of recycling officers is being carried out on its behalf by consultancy Oakdene Hollins, working closely with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

WEEE is often collected from the kerbside in cages located underneath RCVs

Recycling officers have been invited to participate in the research to help inform Defra’s impact assessment for the upcoming WEEE Regulations review.

Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus, told letsrecycle.com: “To-date, there has been no comprehensive analysis of the relative successes or failures of kerbside services in collecting electricals locally.

“Therefore, Material Focus considered it would be very useful to assess the effectiveness, and costs, of the various kerbside collection schemes that are currently in place, both in the UK and, if possible, internationally.

“Material Focus has therefore commissioned research via Oakdene Hollins to look at this issue, with a view to informing the discussions that will take place around the upcoming WEEE Regulatory review during 2021.”

Material Focus says around 155,000 tonnes of electrical waste is lost to residual waste each year. However, the organisation says there are numerous factors “inherent” in the current waste and recycling system calling into question whether kerbside collections are a “realistic goal”.

Review

Defra says it committed to consult on reviewing the WEEE Regulations in the Resources and Waste Strategy of 2018, with a view to increasing collections, driving higher levels of reuse, encouraging more eco-design and ensuring compatibility with the broader EPR framework and circular economy principles.

“The consultation will explore ways in which we can enhance the existing collection infrastructure, such as through introducing doorstep collections”

Defra spokesperson

The government department says it indicated in its response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s report into electronic waste and the circular economy that it would consider doorstep collections when it consults on reviewing the WEEE Regulations (see letsrecycle.com story).

The consultation is to be launched “later” in 2021. In preparation, Defra says it has had “extensive” informal stakeholder engagement to seek views on the sorts of policies it should consult on in the review. One area under consideration is whether producers should fund doorstep collections offered by local authorities, it says.

Defra says it has commissioned research to review the effectiveness of different types of delivery models for a doorstep collection service for WEEE. This will be used as evidence to support its consultation proposal.

Consultation

A Defra spokesperson told letsrecycle.com: “We have committed to consult on reviewing the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) Regulations with a view to ensuring more material is collected and recycled or reused where appropriate.

“The consultation will explore ways in which we can enhance the existing collection infrastructure, such as through introducing doorstep collections or enhanced takeback obligations placed on retailers and internet sellers.”

Mid Sussex

Mid Sussex district council is one local authority which recently decided to launch a kerbside collection service for small electrical items and household batteries. The council has been working in partnership with Material Focus, who supported the new venture as part of their UK-wide ‘Recycle Your Electricals’ campaign.

Mid Sussex says its contractor Serco has already collected more than 16 tonnes of small mixed WEEE and 2.8 tonnes of batteries since the service began in late November 2020.

One of the vehicles with which Serco collects household WEEE from the kerbside for Mid Sussex (picture: Mid Sussex district council)

The small electricals and batteries collected by Serco are stored at its depot and then sent to Light Brothers, a specialist metal recycler based near Lewes in East Sussex.

Councillor John Belsey, Mid Sussex’s cabinet member for environment and service delivery, said: “Mid Sussex district council is delighted that our residents are so engaged with this new kerbside collection service, which has enhanced our existing waste and recycling provision.

“Our huge thanks go to our contractors Serco, who have been extremely supportive of this new venture. We are enormously proud of our collection crews, who have worked tirelessly collecting unprecedented amounts of small electricals under very challenging circumstances.”

The kerbside collection service covers broken small electrical household items and used household batteries that can fit in a standard sized carrier bag. Most items that have a plug, battery or lead are accepted, but some restrictions apply.

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