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A need for knowledge

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has announced that local authorities are being offered around £775, 000 in funding for projects to increase the collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

The money is from the Distributor Take-Back Scheme and the WEEE Compliance Fee scheme.

While the UK is on track to meet this year’s increased WEEE collection target of 500,000 tonnes, there is no room for complacency because, according to a recent survey (see box), one in five people regularly throw away small end-of-life electrical items into the general waste bin rather than the preferred recycling route.

But with 43% of respondents acknowledging that they did not recycle old electricals because they did know how to, and 57% wanting to find out more, this highlights that more needs to be done to improve education around the recycling of WEEE.

From 2016, the WEEE collection target becomes 45% relative to electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) put on the market in the previous three years. Then, from 2019, the target becomes 65% of EEE put on the market or 85% of WEEE generated. So WEEE producer compliance scheme Repic is delighted to see this funding announcement for councils to help increase collections.

Overall the survey findings are encouraging and provide a real insight for any council applying for funding. There are plenty of good intentions, and most people are keen to find out which electrical products can be recycled and how they should be disposed of.

It was also great to see that young people in particular are curious to find out more. It is clear that consumer awareness is the key to improved collection volumes. Most people want to ‘do the right thing’ – all they need is the right information.

Education about the importance of recycling WEEE, alongside information about how to recycle it, is the key to facilitating behaviour changes in consumers.

Any awareness campaigns should focus on encouraging home owners to take their WEEE to collection points – not necessarily making a special trip, but certainly whenever they next visit their local household waste recycling site. The survey also shows that consumers are not clear on where to take larger items, so there is still plenty of work to do with local authorities and recycling centres. As for stimulating more consumer take-back of small mixed WEEE, the key again is information.

In the past we have seen some really creative WEEE campaigns, and I am sure with this new round of funding available that further imaginative education campaigns will be developed to drive the required increase in the collection of WEEE.  

What the survey* found

WEEE is frequently discarded with general household waste

One in five people regularly throw away end-of-life and used items. Smaller electricals such as radios, kettles, mobile phones, irons and hairdryers find their way into the general waste bin rather than the preferred recycling route.

Consumers want to ‘do the right thing’ but are unclear how to

43% of respondents said they did not recycle old electricals because they did not know how to and 57% want to find out more, rising to 60% for young people.

Day-to-day recycling is embraced by the majority

When it came to recycling familiar household items, the survey found that more than 80% of people always recycle paper, cardboard, tins and bottles and 63% recycle kitchen and garden waste. Figures dropped for recycling WEEE with just 46% of respondents saying they always recycled them.

WEEE is cluttering up our homes

One in 10 people hoard their old electricals instead of recycling through the correct channels, often due to lack of knowledge about where to recycle them. When it came to large electrical items, more than a third of respondents were not aware that cookers, tumble dryers and dishwashers could be recycled. Concern for the environment

The environmental impact of WEEE was a concern for most people questioned, with 55% thinking it was hazardous for the environment and wanted more information.

* The survey interviewed more than 1,000 households in the UK about their recycling habits, environmental concerns and general awareness of how to recycle old and unwanted electrical items 

Philip Morton is chief executive of Repic

For further information on the funding available and to access the DTS and WEEE Compliance Fund joint online application form, Repic has created a one-click button to link from its home page at www.repic.co.uk

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