The WEEE conference, hosted by Lets Recycle last week, provided a valuable deep dive into an industry that has been somewhat overshadowed by the ongoing prioritisation of packaging recycling by government.
While there has been a lack of focus on WEEE recycling in recent years, the announcements from Defra during the conference signalled an intent to improve the legislation to reduce the environmental impact of electrical products.
Here is a round up of the key insights you need to know:
The delayed release of the post-implementation review caused a pause in policy development over the last year. However, during their presentation at the conference, Defra signalled their intention to conduct a WEEE review, including a public consultation, in 2021.
While this consultation represents a year’s delay when compared to the timelines set in the Government’s 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy, the public announcement does put many of the issues outlined in the strategy back on the agenda for producers and recyclers.
Defra gave a further indication that they would “maintain a competitive system” that “aligns with [the] wider EPR framework”. The Government are minded to strike a balance to ensure the benefits of competition are maintained within the current EPR system.
The importance of targets
Defra also highlighted their pragmatic approach to the setting of WEEE recycling targets for 2020, which considered the potential impacts of COVID-19.
Even though targets were sensibly revised within the first few weeks of the pandemic hitting, the UK looks to still be struggling to meet the lower targets, leading Defra to reinforce the need for any 2020 Compliance Fee proposals to include COVID-19 impacts for the Secretary of State to approve later in the year.
The POPs issue
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) were referred to throughout the varying sessions of the conference, showing just how big an impact the interpretation is having on the industry.
There is significant concern that the potential for POPs to be present in certain material streams may cause further difficulties in collection and treatment of WEEE.
Keeping a focus on collections
With changes to the Distributor Take-back Scheme looming, there was considerable time given to discussing the options for increasing the collection of WEEE from households. Enhanced duties for retailers to take-back equipment and further exploration of doorstep collection provision were discussed.
Over the next few months, while Defra are deliberating on which questions to ask industry, it will be very important to ensure collection provision remains high on the agenda and doesn’t get lost in the hyperbole of fashionable industry concepts like “circular economy” and “modulated fees”.
Can you help increase collections of WEEE?
Ecosurety provide a comprehensive collections service for both WEEE and batteries, from one-off collections to solutions for UK-wide retail store chains. Find out more here and please do not hesitate to contact our team to find out more about how we can assist you.
Innovation and policy director
Robbie is innovation and policy director at Ecosurety. Having spent years building an intimate understanding of the industry’s policies and politics, he uses this knowledge to help shape new legislation and oversees Ecosurety’s growing portfolio of cross-industry innovation projects including Podback and the Flexible Plastic Fund. He has worked closely with Defra during the most recent packaging consultations, outlining the impacts and required transitional arrangements of the UK’s new EPR system and is a member of the government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP). He is also a spokesperson for the company and regularly uses his influence to communicate the importance of environmental responsibility to external stakeholders.