Defra publishes WEEE target proposals

06 MARCH 2020

Defra has published their proposed targets for the collection of WEEE and are seeking responses by Friday 13th March.

As expected, the 2019 targets were missed by a large margin. Within an overall shortfall of 10%, the largest single material shortfall lay with Small Mixed WEEE that was down 21%. The Defra paper suggest this will significantly improve in 2020 with more local authorities providing doorstep collection of WEEE and a public communications campaign - paid for by the Compliance Fee - that is expected to shortly be launched. However, there are concerns that the increasing cost of WEEE treatment due to difficult material markets and in particular, the imposition of POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) controls may see more material disappearing out of the formal AATF treatment network into more basic shredding operations.

The 2020 targets have been calculated against revised collection volumes that have taken account of the new LDA and SMW protocols. Overall, they call for a 7% (35k tonnes) increase over 2019 collected levels with a 14% increase applied to SMW - an extra 19k tonnes. Is this achievable? Only time will tell, but given that WEEE collection volumes have declined from nearly 600k tonnes in 2016 down to 502k tonnes in 2019, it seems a significant challenge.

Does this matter? Well 2019 was the critical year from an EU point of view and we would seem to have fallen well short of the 65% EU collection target. But now we are effectively out of the EU, the importance of these targets is questionable and some might say that all they do is lead to a large chunk of money being extracted from producers each year into the Compliance Fee fund. The 2019 shortfall is likely to add a further £4-5m to the £11+m from 2017 and 2018 and whilst a lot of useful work has been done with that, there are concerns as to the overall value this provides to the UK. 

The current WEEE Regulations are under review with a revised system expected to be consulted on early next year. Many see the Compliance Fee as undermining the whole purpose of the WEEE Directive which was to increase the about of WEEE being properly treated. There is still a huge gap - some 900k tonnes - between the amount of EEE placed on the market and the amount reported as being collected for proper treatment. These graphs illustrate that gaps for each stream over the years. A further Compliance Fee funded project is expected to tell us where that missing tonnage is going, but at present, the WEEE Regulations are not working how they should.