Defra set the targets for collection of electrical and electronic waste. By undertaking a five-year trend forecast, they are identifying the total tonnage for collection of each individual category of WEEE. Unfortunately, these targets are not being met for the third year running.
What has happened in previous years?
In 2018, the UK collected 492,532 tonnes of E-waste, which was 92% of the target. 2019 followed a similar pattern. 494,976 tonnes were collected, which was only 90% of the 550,577 tonne target. However, this was a slight increase of 2,000 tonnes from 2018. This falls short of the target of 65% of the weight of new products placed onto the market being collected.
Why are targets being missed?
The AATF believe that the blame on missing targets lies with the compliance fee mechanism. The compliance fee is used by compliance schemes when they do not have enough recycling evidence to meet their collection targets. The aim is to prevent them from collecting more WEEE than specified in their targets, and selling the surplus to schemes who need to meet their targets. It is thought by Susanne Barker, chair of the JTA, that “small electricals are still being thrown in the bin and that some electricals beyond further use or repair are being hoarded and that additional methods to get access to this WEEE are needed to increase collection levels”.
What is being done?
In 2020, the proposed target is 537,976 tonnes. This is a reduction of the 2019 target. This shows that adjustments are being made based on previous years collection numbers. However, it is believed that new initiatives that have been implemented in 2020 will have a positive impact on the collections. Nigel Harvey, chair of WEEE Scheme Forum says “Some of the changes coming into effect this year should have a positive impact on collections in 2020. Requiring retailers to collect WEEE instore is a great move – making it easier for consumers to drop off their WEEE should help improve the situation.”
The years of missing targets shows that the problem lies with our attitude towards electronics and how we dispose of them. Only a fraction of the electronics sold in a year are collected. Many small electrical items are thrown away or kept because people don’t know how to dispose of them.
This needs to change. From 2021, large retailers will be obliged to take back WEEE in store. There really is no excuse! Furthermore, electronic items can be sold to companies, like Zixtel, who are willing to recycle or even refurbish your goods. Yes, you heard that right. You will be paid for disposing of your items! The more of our electrical products that we can dispose of sensibly by recycling or getting refurbished, the better. This will help the environment as it will stop lots of electricals been thrown onto landfill.